Skip to main content

Full text of "The chorus : a tale of love and folly"

See other formats


I mumitnn Hill itar* » ii n 





THE CHO 

A TALE OF LOVE AND 
SYL\iA:i.YND 




•V '^T^_-**tf*«,aC0CfS5UtV 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

RIVERSIDE 



THE CHORUS 



THE CHORUS 

A TALE OF LOVE AND 
FOLLY. BY SYLVIA LYND 



(Pa.'. .::?-■) 



LONDON 
CONSTABLE & COMPANY Ltd. 

1915 



Printed in Great Britain ey 

■Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, 

brunswick st., stamford st., s.e., 

and bungay suffolk. 



C^9 



To 

THE GENEROUS HANDS OF 

N. F. DRYHURST 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE, A BEAUTIFUL LADY, A 

VERY YOUNG LADY, THE HERO AND ANOTHER I 

II SMALL TALK — NINETEEN DASH . . . 14 

III INTRODUCES THE HEROINE ... 24 

IV SECOND IMPRESSION ..... 32 

V PRELUDE TO AN UNPLEASANT CONCLUSION . 4 1 

VI ASIDE ....... 48 

VII EARLY SOWING IN A ^VARM BORDER . . 56 

VIII CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS ... 68 

IX MRS. HAMEL, ANTHONY HAMEL, NELLY HAYES 

IN THOUGHT ..... 80 

X HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP . . • 93 

XI WEEPING AND KISSING , . . .113 

XII INEVITABLE ...... I37 

XIII TRIVIALITIES ...... 139 

XIV PANDOLEFSKY ON THE SEX QUESTION . . 150 
XV AND ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF . . . 169 

XVI A QUARREL ...... 175 



viii CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

XVII MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX . , • 183 

XVIII NELLY HAYES ORDERS HER TROUSSEAU . 1 95 

XIX A VULGAR ROW — HILDA FORGETS THAT IT IS 
NOT POSSIBLE TO MAKE A SOw's EAR OUT 
OF A SILK PURSE .... 203 

XX MORE UNPLEASANTNESS — THE GARDEN-PARTY 2 1-5 



XXI MARKING TIME — AN HONEST INDIAN ASS GOES 
FOR AN UNICORN — FAREWELLS . 

XXII NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 

XXIII TEMPTATION AND FALL OF MISS FITCH 

XXIV MRS. HAMEL TURNS DOWN HER THUMB 
XXV FLATNESS ..... 



220 
228 
245 

264 



XXVI LONDON — LONELINESS — THE DANGERS OF 
THE STREETS^THE ARJNI OF COINCIDENCE 
STRETCHING IN ALL DIRECTIONS — THE 
HAPPY ENDING . . . . . 271 



EPILOGUE: HARLEQUINADE . . .20 



rri 7 



THE CHORUS 



CHAPTER I 

A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE, A BEAUTIFUL LADY, A VERY 
YOUNG LADY, THE HERO AND ANOTHER 

It was one of the beauty's good days. Seated 
at the inlaid bureau in the hail, she was writing 
letters. In her hand was a quill pen stained emerald 
green, and so large that it seemed as if a puff of 
w^nd would put "way" on it and send it out of 
control altogether. In her sprawling writing she 
was covering some thin sheets of grey note-paper 
with green ink. Vague little notes: "Do come 
down one Friday night and stay the week-end. The 
house is going to be nice, I think"; or "Mrs. 
Hamel will be obliged if Messrs. Friilige will send 
some patterns of brocades and silks for evening 
gowns"; and so on. She felt very busy and 
efficient. 

The room was quiet, save for the squeaking of 
the pen and an occasional sound, not unlike a 
hiccup, from the tall clock that swung its pendulum 
against the wall. At her right a wood fire was 
blazing; at her left long, square-paned glass doors 
revealed the garden, as yet a wilderness of black 
earth, and the woods of the Warren pencilling the 

B 



2 THE CHORUS 

sky half a mile away. Somewhere a man was level- 
ling one of the lawns, making a heavy dunting 
sound as he pounded. 

The hall was warm and sweet with the scent of 
hyacinths that filled with a white foam a lustre 
bowl on the round table. The great staircase, lazily 
slanted, sloped away into upper regions of luxury 
and peace. The fire streamed up the chimney, a 
grey Persian cat stretched itself on the hearthrug. 
It was the leisure hour between lunch and the exer- 
tions of tea. Over all was the cold white light of 
a March afternoon. 

Mrs. Hamel was a slender, fair-haired woman 
whose calm no wave of thought or feeling had ever 
disturbed. She was like one of those frail shells 
that survive the fiercest storms — "ladies' finger- 
nails" children call them. She had only two 
interests in life, and was not aware of having any : 
her health and her clothes. Her days were par- 
titioned between not feeling very well and staying 
in bed and feeling well enough to put on a new 
gown and come downstairs. 

Anthony Hamel had added her to his other pos- 
sessions much as he had acquired his carpets and 
his furniture, because she was perfect in her way ; 
but she always felt a stranger in her own house. 
It was no home of hers. She was merely another 
jewel that Anthony had chosen to set, and she had 
the good sense to let him choose her setting. Her 
own taste in visual things was etjtirely non-existent. 
She might have been born blind so little did shape 
and colour mean anything to her. She liked a 
couch to be soft and did not care what it was 
covered with ; she liked her gowns to fit — that was, 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 8 

to be a little tight round the ribs and waist — and 
was as content in navy blue piped with crimson 
(a favourite scheme of hers before she married), 
provided it cost much money, as in the delicate 
garments Anthony chose for her. However, she 
trusted his taste. She liked to possess what would 
probably be the finest house in England even if she 
did not feel entirely comfortable in it. She enjoyed 
the position of importance that his genius had made 
for her. But in sympathy she belonged to the little 
crowd of Army men and parsons from which she 
had sprung : men so content to be the sons of 
other men as not to need to distinguish themselves 
in their professions. People with an exaggerated 
respect for the trimness and order, the to-morrow 
the same as yesterday, of their not important lives. 
She viewed with a fine disdain her husband's 
patrons and associates — artists and men of letters — 
as a horde of ragamuffins and mountebanks. She 
believed that she had come down in the world, and 
though she was too well bred actually to boast of 
her former altitude, she never ceased to condescend 
to emotion and intelligence as to ignoble things. 
Withal she was scrupulously faithful in the small- 
est details of her life, chaste, courageous. She was 
a diamond, or, better, a clear frosty morning, con- 
trasting with her countrywomen, who too often are 
the Sou'wester overwhelming in jollity, or due East. 
She had no kinship with April weather. 

The clock against the wall cleared its throat and 
struck softly. 

A few minutes later the door leading to the 
garden was opened and a tall girl in a coat and 
skirt stepped into the room. 



4 THE CHORUS 

"Mr. Hamel sent me to say he may be late for 
tea. He's just firing something." 

" I hope you've had a good day ? " 

"Splendid. May I wait to hear how the furnace 
behaves ? They don't need me any more out there." 
She nodded up the garden. 

"Yes, do. Just ring for tea, will you ? I'm much 
too hungry to wait for them." 

The tall girl, having rung the bell, settled herself 
in an arm-chair on the other side of the fire and 
stretched her feet in their neat brown shoes to the 
blaze. She sat with the seemingly deliberate un- 
gracefulness of a young man, her elbows on the 
arms of the chair, her hands, with fingers locking, 
resting on her breast, her head, its brown hair 
rufifled from the wind, poked forward. It was quite 
a surprise to realize how pretty her face was. Her 
name was Hilda Concannon. 

She watched Mrs. Hamel crowd her signature on 
to the last scrawled sheet of note-paper, then she 
said — 

"May I bring my friend Nelly Hayes to see you 
when she comes down ? She's coming to stay with 
me at the end of the week." 

"Yes, do. Young girls are so amusing. Is she 
as quite modern as you are ? " 

"Oh no, she's quite ancient. She hasn't any 
theories. Not a bit like me. There must have 
been scores of Nelly Hayeses since the beginning 
of the world. Only most of them get varnished 
out of recognition. She's the old Eve." 

"Well, I'm glad there are some natural girls 
left," said Mrs. Hamel. 

Hilda smiled cheerfully. 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 5 

"You'd better bring her in to dinner" — Mrs. 
Hamel corrected herself — "in after dinner on Satur- 
day night. There will be rather a big party of 
us." 

"Thanks ever so much. I shall love to." 

Hilda Concannon was the daughter of a mill- 
owner. Her father had retired early from business 
with a weak heart and a small fortune. From that 
time he had had no place in which to exercise his 
powers of order and domination but a double-fronted 
villa in Ballygrawna. There, with the help of a 
threatened fit of apoplexy, he was a despot indeed. 
Hilda, a brother who drank, and her shadowy, 
low-spirited mother, together with a band of much- 
cursed maidservants and grooms, constituted his 
state. For years Hilda had grown accustomed to 
tip-toeing through life in constant expectation of 
uproar. Mr. Concannon trod his house in a per- 
manent simmering anger. Until Hilda did so her- 
self no one had ever dreamt of combating him, let 
alone of trying to conquer him. Hilda it was who 
taught him his first lesson. 

She had been educated at an expensive English 
boarding-school, followed by a year in a Belgian 
convent to which, with one of those curious lapses 
of logic which distinguish the North of Ireland 
Protestant, she had been sent to learn to speak 
French. She was picking up what Art knowledge 
she could from books and the local Art school, 
reading for her degree at Queen's College, and 
feeling all the while that intense arrogance and 
self-confidence which is the happy lot of people 
aged eighteen, when the great moment came. Mr. 
Concannon, incited by the eloquence of a clergy- 



6 THE CHORUS 

man at lunch on the modern girl, her uselessness, 
idleness and extravagance, pursued Hilda into the 
garden, whither she had at the earliest moment 
fled out of reach of the eloquence, and there publicly 
and idiotically commanded her to "weed the rockery 
bed." 

"Don't be silly. Father," said Hilda, summoning 
a bored voice. "You know the gardener does it." 

" Is that any reason why you should eat the 
bread of idleness?" asked Mr. Concannon. (A 
large meal of meat and wines always made an 
explosion of temper necessary.) "Remember your 
father's health, dear," sounded vainly in Hilda's 
ears. She was a Concannon and the blood of her 
father flowed strongly in her veins. 

"And the sooner you have your apoplectic fit, 
the better," she had ended. 

It was a famous victory. From that day her 
father regarded her with a kind of surly admiration. 
He settled a little income upon her, and though in 
a subsequent rage he tried to disendow her, his 
first enthusiasm proved to have been too strong, 
and his solicitor told him, not without malicious 
enjoyment, that it was impossible to take the money 
back again. 

This unlooked-for good fortune made Hilda 
thirsty for freedom. She abandoned her intention 
of taking a degree, and announced that she was 
going to Paris to learn to paint. This statement 
was provocative of such domestic anguish, however, 
that in the end she compromised and went to 
London instead. There her first bad disappoint- 
ment awaited her. She found that she should never 
paint well enough to be in the front rank of her 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 7 

art. She was too ambitious to be content with 
pottering and too honest to disguise a failure from 
herself. She believed she could use her gifts of 
colour and design in metalwork and enamelling, 
and after a preliminary trial in Regent Street, where 
she learnt to handle her tools, Anthony Hamel's 
name, naturally, was suggested to her. So to 
Anthony Hamel she apprenticed herself. He 
approved her work ; approved, too, her keen, in- 
solent young face ; and now for half a year she 
had lived at Elkins's Farm, in Otterbridge, at the 
foot of the hill where the Hamels' great house was 
nearing completion. 

It was to be named The Height, appropriate 
to its position and to its owner's success in the 
world. It crowned the next hill to the Warren, 
and was set on a green space between beech woods 
and the pines. It was built of pale stone, roofed 
with silver slate ; but the greyness was enlivened 
by the brilliant limewashing of the upper storey 
and between it and the stone a band of terra-cotta 
brick. The red appeared again in the chimney-pots, 
the white in the stacks, and the whole was long and 
rather low, varied, self-conscious and delightful. 

The garden was to be terraced to the main road. 
The chief entrance was at the back, as it were, 
reached by a steep drive circling the hill. Towards 
the Warren stretched a rose-garden of pergola'd 
walks and an orchard. At the far end a smaller 
white-walled building was the studio. With the 
long line of its stables and outhouses standing at 
a lower level it had the air of a hill-town, a little 
citadel held against commonness, and particularly 
against the Jabberwock Halls of the golf links from 



!f 



8 THE CHORUS 

which it differed much as does a Brabazon water- 
colour from a Christmas-number oleograph. 

Mrs. Hamel sealed the last of her envelopes and 
moved from the bureau to the sofa. 

"Do make the tea, Hilda," she said. "I am 
quite exhausted." 

She arranged the folds of her soft gown and with 
an effort lifted her small feet on to the couch beside 
her. Thus composed she ate a hearty meal. 

The curtains were drawn, the kettle was singing, 
the lamplight was a benediction. The big silver 
teapot and the frail painted cups showed each an 
answering speck of flame. 

Hilda, busy with the tea-caddy, talked of Nelly 
Hayes. 

"She's an Irish girl, too, and that made us 
friendly at once. You know, English people are 
not exactly welcoming at first— not the English 
people in a boarding-house. There was one old 
lady with a toupee that used to make my blood run 
cold. It was as much as my iron self-control could 
do not to believe that she would come upstairs and 
cut my throat while I was asleep. Have you read 
the ' Bagman's Dog ' ? " 

"And who is she? " 

"Oh, Nelly? I haven't a notion. She told me 
' Hayes ' is not her real name. vShe's entrancingly 
pretty." 

She saw in her mind's eye Nelly seated on her 
bed in the dun-coloured Bloomsbu'ry boarding- 
house — Nelly, wrapped picturesquely in a grimy 
silk kimono, recounting a family history of the 
most improbable description. 

"And so, you see, it's very important that no one 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 9 

should find out where my mother is, for fear father 
would know and get a hold of Jimmy." 

"But, my dearest Nelly, your father couldn't 
possibly take your brother away. If he's such a 
ruffian as that nobody would allow it. Your mother 
could divorce him six times over." 

"She could and she couldn't," came the trailing 
voice. "There's more in it than that. My mother, 
do you see, has a man she's fond of (there's nothing 
in it but that), and he's fond of her, too, but she 
hasn't much money, and so she lets Joey Harrison 
pay the bills. He's my guardian and he's tremen- 
dously rich. When I'm older I'm going to marry 
him. We have it all arranged. So, you see, it's 
very important that father shouldn't know about 
it " And so on. 

" Father " appeared to be a gentleman with dyed 
moustaches (Nelly displayed his "photo"), whose 
only known exploits in the last twelve years were 
the begetting of Jimmy and the "putting away" 
of Nelly's pearl pendant. 

"But I know I can always raise five pounds on 
it now, and that's one good thing," added his 
daughter, with stoicism. 

Unfortunately five pounds would be of little use 
in the present emergency. They owed the board- 
ing-house keeper sixteen. It was Nelly herself that 
was in pawn until she received a remittance. 

"And then I shall go on a frightful racket and 
buy a whole lot of new clothes." 

"But, my child, how hateful for you! Don't 
you mind being left behind like this?" 

Nelly shrugged her shoulders. "I'm used to it," 
she said. 



10 THE CHORUS 

Hilda believed very few of the stories that had 
for their origin that fluent, indolent brain. 
She told Mrs. Hamel — 

"Father Hayes, so far as I can make out, is a 
pretty complete villain ; ' a bad egg ' Nelly calls 
him. Her mother seems to have come down in the 
world; I've never seen her." 

"Probably a case of a runaway match with a 
groom," said Mrs. Hamel, faintly interested. "I've 
often wondered what became of them." 

"The 'bad end' in this case would give the 
gloomiest prophets satisfaction, I should think," 
said Hilda. "I don't understand much about it, 
but it's very pitiable. I gather there's a small 
brother for whom they sacrifice everything. Nelly 
was marooned in a boarding-house when I met 
her." 

She did not mention, and indeed never reminded 
herself, who it was bailed Nelly out of that par- 
ticular prison. 

Mrs. Hamel was already regretting having in- 
vited the girl. She was probably an impossible 
creature. 

"Dear Hilda, how very impetuous you are ! " 
Hilda guessed her thought, and said — 
"But, whatever sort of people she has, they 
haven't affected her in the least. She has sweet 
manners and the best spirits in the world. You 
feel the sun comes out when you look at her. I'm 
going to make a thousand drawings of her while 
she's here." 

"And how old is this engaging young person?" 
"Oh, sixteen or seventeen, I suppose. I've never 
asked her. She looks less." 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 11 

Men's voices sounded outside, and Anthony 
Hamel and his lieutenant, Pandolefsky, a young 
man with no bridge to his nose and a scarlet 
shirt, came in from the garden. Pandolefsky was 
Hamel's right-hand man. He had a wonderful 
technical skill, and if he had had an original brain 
as well, Anthony would have been driven out of the 
field — so much they both admitted. Pandolefsky 
was anything but an attractive being, combin- 
ing an adherence to the farmyard theory of life 
with a distaste for the contents of his water-jug. 
He had a strong belief that all women were of easily 
conquerable virtue, provided that the right man 
assailed them, and added to this faith, as is usually 
the case, another, namely, that he himself was the 
right man. It was one of Mrs. Hamel's by-laws 
that any maidservant found speaking to Mr. Pan- 
dolefsky disappeared at once without wages, notice, 
or character. As a result, his progress about the 
house was marked with a whirring of petticoats 
and hidden gigglings, which helped to make strong 
his beliefs. Mrs. Hamel protected herself from the 
necessity of having him dismissed with her air of 
wanness and ill-health. Hilda's coming had at 
the beginning filled both the Hamels with anxiety, 
for nothing is more destructive of good work than 
an atmosphere of flirtation, unless, indeed, it is an 
atmosphere of spite ; and between Pandolefsky and 
a good-looking girl these were the alternatives. 
Hilda, however, had, Ulster fashion, taken his 
measure with disconcerting swiftness, and when 
he told her, tete-a-tete in the studio one day, that 
Art was Passion and that we must feel in order to 
express, she did not disengage her sleeve from his 



12 THE CHORUS 

hot hand, but indicated gravely that what she 
wished to express was something austere and 
simple, that in herself she was cultivating, albeit 
hardily and with regret, the solitary and austere 
life. Hamel found her after this interview shaking 
with laughter, the cause of which the utmost per- 
suasion could not make her reveal. The relations 
of the trio in the studio, however, could not have 
been more business-like and friendly. 

"Well, darling," said Anthony, kissing his wife's 
hand, "how have you been? Isn't she looking 
lovely?" His musical voice had a pleasant little 
roughness, a grain in it. He seated himself for 
a moment on the back of the sofa, glorious with his 
red-brown hair and white jersey. 

" How did the furnace behave ? " asked Hilda. 
She was one of those young women in whom a 
display of marital affection always aroused a slight 
feeling of sickness. 

" How did the furnace behave, O Handmaiden 
of Art? If I say the whole thing fused you will 
burst into tears." 

They had been engaged upon a triptych of 
enamels for the music-room, and this was the final 
firing. 

Pandolefsky in a strong Cockney accent said, 
"Your peacocks have turned out fine, Miss Con- 
cannon." 

"Hilda is becoming such a dab at it that she'll 
be teaching us soon. She'll be able to strike-break 
next time you turn rusty, Pandolefsky." 

"Oh, I wouldn't be a blackleg even for you, 
Mr. Hamel," said Hilda. 

So they drank tea together. Mrs. Hamel aloof 



A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE 13 

but kindly, Anthony exuberant and sure of him- 
self, Hilda cheerful and argumentative, Pandolefsky 
with a superior smile on his dark red lips for their 
contented ignorance of that intenser life of which 
he was so indefatigable an explorer. 



CHAPTER II 

SMALL TALK — NINETEEN DASH 

Mrs. Hamel had collected quite a big party for 
the week-end. 

Ernst Eckstein was there and his wife, who in 
the considered gaiety of her gowns was as decora- 
tive in a room as a cabinet of old china. They were 
both rich and young and handsome, and belonged 
to that esoteric portion of humanity which has 
known no stronger agitation than a new opera or 
theory of painting. They were not lightly lifted 
to clouds of enthusiasm, these young people, but it 
was extremely easy to set their teeth on edge. 

Miss Fitch, the novelist, was at The Height 
too; a slim, witty woman, her dark hair touched 
with grey. She had a sharp tongue and a sharper 
eye, but she was not too sincere to be a pleasant 
companion. 

There was a brown-bearded man called Fyvie, 
who was practising some of Hamel 's ideas with a 
village industry in the North of England, and 
teaching his country people to weave thick carpets 
and rich silks that were unfortunately too expensive 
for anybody to buy. 

And there were the Ardens, a charming couple, 
though Alicia had a tiresome tendency to think 
that all the world wanted was nice husbands enough 
to go round. 

14 



SMALL TALK 15 

Ardent Keath, the well-known litterateur, was 
there, a successful young man, with hair smoothed 
back and jaded moustache. He had published, at 
his own expense, two books of poems, and wrote 
sombre letters to the sixpenny papers in defence of 
this or that artistic monstrosity. 

The Hanburys came, also, man and w-ife both 
enormously rich. They were the patrons, in the 
more odious sense of the word, of beauty, and, with 
enjoyment, of poverty. Even in this well-endowed 
gathering money was still their distinctive quality. 

Lastly, there was Steven Young — "Stevie," as 
his friends called him ; not yet rich or successful or 
well-known — perhaps never going to be, comely, 
untried. He had a profound admiration for Hamel, 
an admiration unstimulated by the great man's 
success. It was said of him by Miss Fitch — and 
she was the sort of woman who knew — that he was 
a perfect darling, but that no one would dream of 
falling in love with him. Also that he was nice, 
but would never be any nicer. He was a writer 
of poems and lampoons, and in the intervals of his 
labours, which were not as yet many, he was one 
of the most serious young men that it would be 
possible to meet. His friends, indeed, thought he 
must have a weak heart, and decided that his smile 
— not too rare a thing — was pathetic. It gave him 
a sharp stab of anger whenever he looked at the 
Hanburys to think that people of their kind should 
be the employers of a man like Hamel. 

Anthony was reconstructing their house at Apsley 
Place for them : "Such a pity he cannot reconstruct 
the owners at the same time," as Miss Fitch 
was reported to have said. There was always a 



16 THE CHORUS 

" Hanbury " or two at the Hamels* week-end parties 
"to keep us in touch with reality" — for Anthony used 
his house as a sort of hoarding and laboratory, 
trying experiments there and advertising effects. 
Every few months one or other of his rooms would 
become permanent in some ecstatic stranger's house, 
and an army of workmen would invade his own. 
He had no fixed allegiance. His brain teemed with 
fancies. He was always eager to invent wonderful 
trifles for his palaces and wonderful palaces for 
his trifles. He knew how much the thought makes 
for discontent that "nothing can be better than 
this." 

"But surely," Hilda had said, "one thing must 
be the best?" 

"Yes, but I like to think I haven't found it yet." 
He was a creative artist to the depths of his 
being. The senses and what they meant to him 
were his happiness, how to express and enrich and 
intensify them a thousandfold his preoccupation. 
In metal work, enamel and sparkling stones he 
had first seemed able to recapture the solidity and 
vividness of Nature. His abundant energy, how- 
ever, was not so soon exhausted. It became neces- 
sary to elaborate the smallest details of his life. 
He designed his house and a hundred prettinesses 
for it, his garden, his wife's clothes. He was never 
tired and never idle. His strong craftsman's hands 
were always busy, his inventive brain brimming 
with ideas. He could carry out any piece of work, 
from mounting a play to designing a racing-cup. 
He might be found at one time carving the plaster 
of a ceiling with his workmen, at another bottling 
wine in his cellar. He had never been in need of 



SMALL TALK 17 

money or forced to modify his ideas, and, as a 
result, success attended him. He had a factory in 
the East End of London — most spacious and con- 
venient of factories — run by the invaluable Prestow, 
where much of his work was carried out. This he 
frequently visited. Much of his time, too, was 
spent at the sites where he was to build, surrounded 
by abject surveyors, or in the old houses whose dry 
bones he was to make live again. It was said of 
him that he did not scruple to use another man's 
idea, if it suited him ; but it was admitted, also, that 
the man whose idea he acknowledged was on the 
road to prosperity. For his own enjoyment he 
worked in his studio whenever he could, painting 
strange panels and altar-pieces, and modelling in 
precious metals gauds for women to wear. Occa- 
sionally he held a little exhibition of these. 

Mrs. Hanbury, seated next to him at dinner, was 
loud and eloquent in praise of his salt-cellars. She 
was promised them for Apsley Deane. Unaware 
of his custom, she was overwhelmed with her good 
fortune. 

"But will you ever be able to make anything so 
lovely again ? " 

"My dear lady, if I thought I couldn't I should 
go straight to my room and blow^ out my brains." 
(Twenty minutes with Mrs. Hanbury usually turned 
a man's mind to graveyard thoughts.) 

All the same, they were a merry party at the long 
dinner-table. The talk journeyed among books, 
pictures and politicians, and the more aggressive 
happenings in the world. They discussed the war 
scare, and Mrs. Arden declared that she always 
pictured herself at the siege of London. "On the 
c 



18 THE CHORUS 

balcony, in my best gown, defying a glorious 
Hussar in a pale blue coat." 

Fyvie, the man with the beard, was maintaining 
that military training was a capital thing for boys; 
"makes them grow up straight and muscular, and 
with some sense of discipline." Steven Young 
disagreed with him, saying that self-control was the 
antithesis of discipline, and the last thing taught 
in an army. Miss Fitch mocked some military 
acquaintance and described him as "sharpening his 
moustaches." Mrs. Hamel then quenched the con- 
versation by saying she thought it "rather a fine 
thing for a man to fight for his country." 

They talked then about feminism and whether 
women were really on the side of peace, and Fyvie 
boldly stated his enthusiasm for the modern mus- 
cular young woman. "Plenty of calisthenics," was 
his old-fashioned phrase. Mrs. Hamel told him he 
must meet Hilda Concannon, a typical modern girl. 
"I like her, but I don't pretend to understand her," 
she said, with rather a contemptuous voice. Ardent 
Keath told her she should enthuse about the new 
school of painting, which was aggressively anti- 
feminist, and which proclaimed in its own indecent 
way the Kaiser's maxim: "Children, Church and 
Cookery," with the last two items left out. "That's 
partly why I like it, of course. It seems a herald 
of returning sanity." 

Hanbury's share of this conversation had been 
simply to note Hilda Concannon's name, and deter- 
mine to "tease" the young woman should he meet 
her. He goggled his eyes above his plate. 

Steven Young talked of the Library censorship, 
and Miss Fitch imagined its reading new novels 



SMALL TALK 19 

"with the zest for shocks of a child on a switch- 
back." 

" Do you expect your new novel to be put on the 
Index?" 

"Alas, no; I am not one of those to whom all 
things are pure," laughed Miss Fitch. 

Ardent Keath marshalled the conversation to- 
wards the Standard Authors, and enunciated, 
"Keats is nectar in a golden cup, Shelley a libation 
poured out for the gods." 

("I suppose he's been trying all dinner-time to 
say that," thought Miss Fitch.) 

By the time they had reached dessert the talk had 
become more personal. Mrs. Arden lamented the 
approaching marriage of a girl friend to an elderly, 
ugly widower. 

"But, Alicia, you've always wanted everyone to 
get married ! " protested Mrs. Eckstein. 

"But she's such a nice girl," lamented Mrs. 
Arden. 

"That's the worst of it," said Steven Young, 
"all girls are such nice girls." 

They discussed the prospective husband and how 
much character was responsible for action. "And 
after all," Miss Fitch assured them, "no man can 
foresee his past." 

Thus encouraged, the men were left to their 
cigarettes. 

Mrs. Hamel led the way into the music-room. It 
was a lofty, octagonal chamber, with a shallow 
wooden roof. This ceiling and all the other wooden 
surfaces, swing-doors and window frames Hamel 
had painted after the futurist fashion in brilliant 
red, blue, green, yellow, black. The wall spaces 



20 THE CHORUS 

were white and held round mirrors and candle 
sconces of gold-bronze, the curtains were of white 
silk; the carpet, woven in China, was like snow. 
The coverings of the chairs and sofas repeated the 
colours of the ceiling, their frames were black, gold- 
lacquered ; black was the large piano, and the music 
cabinet gold-encrusted. A line of gold-bronze 
edged the doors, the handles were the same. It 
was this room that gave Hamel the reputation in 
Otterbridge of having all the fittings of his house 
of gold. 

At the side of the room farthest from the piano 
was the fireplace, with its great bronzed fender and 
flamboyant hearthrug. On the mantelpiece, as yet 
unset, leant the enamelled plates upon which Hilda 
and Pandolefsky had shown their skill. 

Round the fire was the inevitable group of soft 
chairs and Mrs. Hamel's sofa. She contented her- 
self with merely sitting upon it this evening, and 
placing her feet, in their brocaded shoes, upon a 
gilt-legged tabouret in front of her. She seemed 
more than ever a Dresden shepherdess amidst the 
barbaric splendour. 

Mrs. Hanbury settled her black satin and lace 
into the other corner of the sofa and made, as Mrs. 
Hamel inwardly commented, an admirable fire- 
screen ; Miss Fitch lit her cigarette and amused Mrs. 
Arden and Mrs. Eckstein on the other side of the 
hearth. The grey cat, following a maidservant with 
the coffee, coiled itself on Mrs. Hamel's knees. 

"I wish — " said Mrs. Eckstein, drawing close to 
the blaze — "I wish I hadn't left off my petticoat to 
try and make Ernst think I'm growing thinner." 

"Oh, my dear, don't want to be thinner," said 



SMALL TALK 21 

Miss Fitch, "I feel my skin too tight for my 
bones." 

"I can hardly eat a meal without dread," said 
Mrs. Eckstein cheerfully. "I know so well what I 
shall be like in ten more years." 

"You must strive to be a mystic like me," said 
Miss Fitch, "and I will strive to become — what is 
yo-ur religion? — a connoisseur, isn't it?" 

Mrs. Hanbury was discoursing of her own affairs, 
her soup-kitchen, and the paper she had read a 
week ago to the body called in secret by her friends 
"The Society for Enduring with Equanimity the 
Sufferings of Others." 

Mrs. Hamel did not even pretend to be listening, 
but stroked the grey cat. 

"For Anthony's sake I will endure this woman," 
her expression said. 

Then Mrs. Hanbury spoke of the less satisfactory 
element in her existence, and told how her boy, her 
son, her Archibald, was going to Boarding School 
next term. 

"I want him to go in the summer, he'll be less 
liable to catch cold then. But it will be a wrench 
for me." 

"How old is your little boy? " asked Mrs. Arden 
who had children of her own. 

"He is just eight. He has never slept anywhere 
but in the little room off mine since he was born. 
We shall both have to be brave." 

"Don't you think it rather hard lines on such 
a little child?" 

"His father and I want to make a man of him." 

"Hurrying Nature a little, isn't it?" from Miss 
Fitch. 



22 THE CHORUS 

Mrs. Hanbury assumed her platform manner. 
Rearing her head on her clumsy neck, she asked 
Mrs. Arden— 

" Have you a boy of your own ? " 

"No," said Mrs. Arden, "mine are girls." 

"Ah! " cried Mrs. Hanbury, sure now that her 
self-satisfaction was fully justified, "when you have 
a boy you will understand." 

She divided her sex into "Women" and 
"Women who have no sons." 

"I think," said Mrs. Hamel languidly, "I like a 
man to have been through the mill." 

"Isn't college time enough?" asked Mrs. Eck- 
stein, who, neither having nor desiring children, 
still liked to share the new ideas. 

And, "Isn't there a danger of going in pig and 
coming out sausage? " from Miss Fitch. 

And, "The grinding of the mills of God would 
come quite soon enough for me," from Mrs. Arden. 

Mrs. Hanbury, sure now of the support of her 
divine hostess, changed to a personal topic. 

"I love to watch you with your cat. You handle 
her so lovingly, so — so — beautifully," she said. 

"I treat her as you treat your children, perhaps," 
said Mrs. Hamel sincerely and pathetically. 

"Poor Pussy!" thought the three others, and 
found it difficult not to laugh. They liked each 
other warmly after this brief alliance. 

They began to discuss the latest crop of engage- 
ments and marriages among their friends, a con- 
versation that to anyone outside their circle w^ould 
be as incomprehensible as the telegraph's clicking 
or flash of the heliograph. 

"I suppose you've met Maisy's man?" "I 



SMALL TALK 28 

thought him charming." "His people are fright- 
fully opposed to it." "Well, after all, seven sea- 
sons, dear " " It was idiotic to bring her out so 

soon, she was much too young and not the attractive 
sort of immaturity either." " I met her in the High 
Street yesterday looking radiant." "And did you 
hear that Christine is married already? My dear, 
yes! And came back in time for the new play. She 
received people at the reception on the stage after- 
wards. The Miillers told me about it. They 
thought it quite too courageous of her." "Really, 
the Miillers ! When I go into that house I feel I 
am behind the Purdah. They think of nothing but 
babies, babies, babies, and how they manage to get 
into the world." "I hear the adoring Rufus has 
defected at last." "Yes, who is the new star?" 
"A Miss Hopkinson ; rather nice, I believe. Her 
sister married Henry O'Kane." "Isn't that the 
girl whose brother made such a fool of himself in 
Mexico? " "No, that's a cousin. There are scores 
of them. I knew Chirpy quite well." "Hasn't he 
a brother in the Education Office — a man with 
wonderful eyelashes?" "Yes, that's the one. I 
didn't notice the eyelashes, though. Then there's 
C.L. and R.T.C. and D.G.M. and Claude. Simply 
hundreds." And so on until the door opened and 
it was necessary to be intellectual again. 



CHAPTER III 

INTRODUCES THE HEROINE 

Through the swing-doors came Hilda Con- 
cannon and Nelly Hayes. 

Nelly was wearing a white dress that had been 
her mother's. The hooks were off at the back, 
but, as she said, her hair hid that. Such hair ! 
Masses of it, yellow, hanging below her waist, 
straight had it not been so vigorous. Grey eyes, 
dark-browed, a wide pink mouth, a delicate nose 
with freckles on it, a white skin, and that poised 
air of girlhood that suggests light instead of blood 
flowing in the veins ! She came in graceful and 
confident. Nelly did not know that what made her 
face strangers so securely was the fact that she was 
always the most beautiful person in a room. 

Mrs. Hamel roused herself a little and greeted 
them. 

"Forgive my not rising. I am chained to my 
sofa," she said. "This is my husband's pupil, 
Miss Concannon, and you must be her friend. Miss 
Hayes ? " she introduced them to the others. 

They all smiled and shook hands or bowed, and 
the girls found themselves the focus of a hostile 
scrutiny, the subconscious warfare between women 
and girls. The breach was crossed by Miss Fitch, 
who had met Hilda before, and they were soon 
engaged in animated talk. 

24 



INTRODUCES THE HEROINE 25 

Nelly sat down near Mrs. Hamel, and, finding 
that lady unaccountably silent, began to talk with 
her habitual smile. 

"How you must love living in this house ! " 

"Do you think so?" 

Mrs. Hamel narrowed her eyes. She was noticing 
the torn lace at the girl's throat and the zigzag 
line of scarlet cotton with which some laundry had 
signified its innocence of a rent at the hem of 
her dress. Nelly had left the red thread there "for 
luck." 

"I've never seen any house like it before." 

Mrs. Hanbury, perceiving an opportunity to 
snub, said, "There isn't anything like it. Mrs. 
Hamel's house is unique." 

"That is unlucky for the rest of you, isn't it?" 
replied Nelly sweetly. As she would have ex- 
pressed it, Mrs. Hanbury got no change out of 
her. All the same the thrust was an effort, and a 
sudden reaction sent tears pricking to her eyelids. 

"Have you left Ireland long?" asked Mrs. 
Hamel. There was so little interest in her voice 
that the question was not a solicitude, but an 
impertinence. 

"A thousand years," said Nelly. 

Mrs. Hanbury again advanced to the slaughter. 

"I got some Irish novels out of Mudie's the other 
day. Why is it, can you tell me, that Irish novels 
are all so bad ? " 

She opened her eyes triumphantly above her 
rudeness. Poor Nelly, who knew too little of any 
literature to care to talk about it, flushed and was 
silent. It was Miss Fitch who took up the cudgels. 

"Oh, please don't say that," she cried. " I claim 



26 THE CHORUS 

Irish blood, you know." And then, because the 
girl was so pretty, "Besides, Miss Hayes may have 
written novels herself." 

The fury in Miss Fitch's glance so outbalanced 
the moderation of her tongue that Mrs. Hanbury 
was quite discomfited. 

They were all glad when the men joined them. 

Ernst Eckstein was to play after dinner. He, 
with Keath and Anthony, had been discussing 
bookbinding and rare editions and describing their 
latest acquisitions. The other three had been talk- 
ing politics; at least Hanbury had been talking, 
while Fyvie and Steven Young disagreed with 
him. It was a three-cornered fight, Steven holding 
extreme Socialist opinions, Fyvie arguing in favour 
of small holdings and "general tweediness," Han- 
bury rolling his thick lips round his cigar, ex- 
pressing his faith in the greed and irremediable 
corruption of man's heart. He was a cynic and 
took pride in it. 

As they passed down the wide corridor, its ebon 
floor reflecting the white walls and slender furnish- 
ings, he paused to admire some engravings, heads 
of gentle girls, and said to Hamel — 

"I always envy you these." 

" I keep them to remind myself that there was 
a type of English beauty before the Gaiety girl was 
invented." 

"Oh, come," said Hanbury; "I rather like the 
Gaiety girl." 

"Well, you may keep her," said Anthony. 

"My dear fellow, I shouldn't have proposed 
to do that even in my most lascivious days," 
chuckled Hanbury. 



INTRODUCES THE HEROINE 27 

They passed on. 

"How Hamel does detest a certain type of 
woman ! " murmured Steven. 

"'Lead us not into temptation,'" suggested 
Arden. 

They grinned. 

They entered the music-room. 

"And who," each of them asked himself, "is 
the girl talking to Mrs. Hamel ? " 

Ernst Eckstein played to them. Some of that 
new music at once so elemental and delicate. Nature 
observed by the man of science and expressed by the 
poet. The minute flickering world of leaves and 
grass-blades, blue bells on their hair-like stems ring- 
ing together, mist, raindrops falling on burdocks, 
fine rain driving across meadows, then roses, heaped 
roses, white and without thorns, the sun shines 
out, somewhere among the glistening branches a 
bird breaks into song. When he had done he 
crossed the room and sat down beside his wife. 
He was a sophisticated young man. He had ex- 
pressed the opinion that the keenest joy civilization 
has to offer is the entering of a crowded room 
with a perfectly dressed woman. Nelly Hayes, 
obviously, was not to his taste. 

Mrs. Hamel found her ill-health a useful check 
to any prompting that might make her do some- 
thing agreeable, so she did not introduce any of 
the men to Nelly Hayes. If she had surmised that 
such exertion would not be required of her, she 
would have been quite right. Hilda, of course, 
had met Steven Young — he had been to The 
Height several times already — and after saluting 
Anthony with a wave of her hand, they began to 



28 THE CHORUS 

talk together. Steven did not ask to be presented 
to her friend. He sat where he could watch her. 

"Well, what do you think of her?" asked Hilda 
proudly. 

"I haven't begun to think yet," said Steven. 
"I'm content to look." 

Anthony had gone at once to present himself. 
He knew his wife's little ways and was not troubled 
by them. 

*'Well, beautiful person," he said, "and what is 
your name ? " 

He lowered his voice, but made no suggestion of 
secrecy. 

"My friends call me 'Nelly,'" said that young 
woman, smiling up at him. 

"Then I shall call you ' Nelly,' too," said he. 

They got on very well together. 

Hanbury, after wandering about and finding that 
no one intended to introduce him, settled himself 
near Hilda and listened to what she and Young 
were saying. It was not a particularly interesting 
conversation from a listener's point of view, for 
they were discussing "national characteristics" and 
"religious differences," and, as Mr. Hanbury 
phrased it to himself, "God knows what all." 

"We must be continental rather than insular," 
Hilda was saying. "We shall never have a 
national dress or a national art while we are self- 
conscious about it. That's where I quarrel with 
the movement " 

"What we need is the truth. Unpalatable but 
wholesome." "Good taste must come naturally. It 
isn't fair to expect people who live in wretchedness 
to put on ideals as we put on hats." "Only wealth 



INTRODUCES THE HEROINE 29 

and no fear of poverty will put the old spending 
spirit back into the country." "Ah, if only the 
Churches would teach a little vanity!" "My 
people, though, refute you. We have money in 
the North, but we don't know how to spend it. 

Oh, Ballygrawna." "The closed range " "But 

it isn't fair to ask people to cook at an open fire; 
it's lovely-looking, of course, but what are we to 
do?" "Surely the pot-oven makes excellent 
bread?" "A fable, my dear Stevie; an old wives' 
tale!" "Beauty is suspect in Ireland." "Quite 
rightly. You haven't gone through the reign 
of Queen Victoria there yet — solid comfort, you 
know ! " 

Mr. Hanbury was quite out of it. 

"I'm a furious anti-Catholic. No, it's not my 
Northern blood. I'm jealous for my own religion. 
Whoever heard of a Protestant who called himself 
an intellectual not reading a book because a stupid 
man in a shovel hat condemned it ? " 

"Isn't that because so few 'intellectuals' call 
themselves Protestants?" "Perhaps. But that 
artificial purity of mind, Stevie, wax flowers ! " 
"Better than none, I think." "Savages for me, 
rather!" "Study anthropology!" They both 
laughed. "No, but," said Hilda, "it's the Church's 
attitude to the whole of modern life that infuriates 
me. Every spring I see some idiotic bishop has 
been thumping his pulpit in a Lenten Pastoral, 
forsooth ! Thinking because he's fat and stupid 
he can crush the life out of Socialism and Sufifrag- 
ism, and everything that's decent. Such asinine 
attacks ! " 

A grain of comfort for poor Mr. Hanbury. He 



80 THE CHORUS 

rolled into a more upright posture, and said : 
"You know, Miss Concannon, though I agree 
with many of the things you've said, and I must 
say that you express yourself admirably, I think 
the bishops are right there. Man, you know, has 
made a very special place in his imagination for 
woman, Miss Concannon." 

"Ah, but what sort of place has he made for 
her in reality ? " 

"Not such a bad place, I think. Think of all 
the nice houses, the jewels, the clothes. Why, 
civilization, Miss Concannon, is the tribute man 
lays at woman's feet." 

"Especially in Bermondsey ! " cried Hilda. 

"Isn't that a trifle irrelevant? The men don't 
have too swagger a time there either." 

"Well, that's part of what we are complaining 
about." 

"Surely a rich woman is as much a tyrant as a 
rich man?" suggested Steven. 

"Yes, I admit that, but " 

"Well, then?" 

"Oh, what's the use of giving us pretty things 
and denying us equality?" 

"You are our superiors." 

"But you sneer at us! " 

"Don't servants in the kitchen sneer at their 
masters ? " 

"You seem to be getting the best of it," said 
Hilda, "but all the same I know how suffering 
and humiliated women are." 

"Oh, but for that you must blame Nature." 

"Nature for a woman usually turns up in the 
form of a man," commented Miss Fitch, joining in. 



INTRODUCES THE HEROINE 31 

"Really, dear ladies, we are paying you a com- 
pliment in refusing the vote. We are quite satisfied 
with you as you are." 

"Ah, but the question is — are we satisfied with 
you ? " 

"You let woman tidy your houses, your streets : 
why not your habits and customs?" 

"I am afraid I am a hopeless Anti," said Mr. 
Hanbury. 

"That doesn't matter," said Miss Fitch cheer- 
fully, "so long as you are susceptible." 

"Heresy ! " protested Hilda. 

So the babble went on, a stream of sound broken 
occasionally by a leaping silvery fish of laughter. 
Miss Fitch said — 

"To be praised by an opponent is almost the 
same thing as to be called a fool ! " 

"Well, I prefer to be called a fool politely ! " 

"As bad as having your throat cut with a jammy 
knife ! " 

"Or to be stunned with a peach instead of a 
stone ? " 

"But when you came to you could eat the peach." 

This was Nelly's contribution. She had no idea 
that the conversation was merely flitting among 
metaphors. They enjoyed her naivete and thought 
it intentional. 

Hilda presently detected unmistakable signs of 
weariness on Mrs. Hamel's face, so she said good- 
bye and took Nelly away with her. Anthony came 
out into the hall with them then and put Nelly's 
coat on for her — a cheap unlined green woollen 
coat. It looked strange in his hands. Steven 
Young escorted them down the hill with a lantern. 



CHAPTER IV 

SECOND IMPRESSION 

Nelly Hayes, drowsing in her bed at Elkins's, 
yawned and stretched herself. The window-blind, 
rattling smartly in the wind, filled and drew up with 
a swishing sound, and a ribbon of sunlight ran up 
the wall. That yellow ribbon had lain, on its first 
appearance in the room, across the foot of Nelly's 
bed, and, touching in succession the door, the 
washstand, the text over the mantelpiece and the 
white-petticoated dressing-table, now showed itself 
on the opposite wall. It was eleven o'clock. 

Outside was the tumult of a March morning. 
Boughs swayed, gates creaked. Posses of sparrows, 
jabbering wildly, flung themselves across the 
garden. Every twig glittered. In the north-west 
pillars of white clouds stood up in a sky intensely 
blue. Behind the house Mrs. Elkins's ducks 
chorused together. A horse was led by its slow 
hooves sounding on the stones, "chock, chock, 
chock, chock," and a jingle of harness. Half a 
day's work was done. 

Nelly Hayes, stretching again luxuriously, 
clasped her hands behind her head and screwed 
up her little nose. Then she thrust it caressingly 
into the softness of her arm. Her flesh was 
fragrant, spicy, like rose-leaves. She enjoyed the 

32 



SECOND IMPRESSION 38 

smell of it. Her yellow hair strewed her bosom. 
On her lips peeped a little smile. She was 
thinking. 

Hilda long- ago had fastened her neat blouse 
and started to her work. 

"I think you might come up and see the studio 
this afternoon," she had said in the intervals of 
dressing. "1 don't think Mr. Hamel would mind." 

"Oh, I expect not," Nelly had answered, feeling 
herself already his close friend. 

" W^e always work hard in the mornings," Hilda 
had said. "But in the afternoons we relax a bit. 
We mustn't disturb the routine in any way, because 
it's all rather important." 

"I'll be a mouse," said Nelly. 

"You know, Mr. Hamel is a tremendous swell, 
though he never puts on side," said Hilda, who 
felt Nelly's attitude to savour just a trifle of 
"cheek." 

"He was awfully kind yesterday," said Nelly. 

"Yes; he wants to draw you. We mustn't let 
him forget." (Forget !) 

Hilda put on her hat. 

"Mrs. Elkins will give you some sort of lunch, 
Nelly. I always lunch at The Height. And 
there are some books of mine in the sitting-room, 
if you'd like to read. When you come up this 
afternoon come in by the little iron gate in the 
lane. It's unlocked in the day-lime. There's no 
need to go by the house. Mrs. Hamel doesn't like 
to be bothered with people." 

"She's a proposition," said Nelly. 

"Well, she isn't precisely as amiable as her 
husband," admitted Hilda. 

D 



84 THE CHORUS 

"Don't you worry about me, dear," said Nelly. 
"I shall be quite happy." 

"And another thing." Hilda put her head in at 
the door. "Don't flirt with Pandolefsky." 

Nelly opened eyes at her. 

"Goo! goo!" cried Hilda derisively. "But I 
really mean it. He's forbidden fruit. The Apple 
of Eden. Such an object ! " 

She was gone. 

Nelly listened till the brisk footsteps grew in- 
audible and the iron gate had swung clangingly 
to silence. Then she turned over and had a small 
sleep. 

Pandolefsky, indeed — whoever he might be ! 
Well, she expected to have a good time, anyway. 

The dark eyelashes drooped. 

It took Nelly Hayes a long time to get dressed, 
especially on a state occasion such as this. With 
her brief, though not uninteresting, experience of 
the world, she knew that to make an impression 
is child's play ; the difficulty is to confirm it. There 
were long delays in the toilet. Wrapped in her 
old silk dressing-gown, where birds with out- 
stretched necks flew amid a mass of scarlet blossoms 
and coffee stains, she sat and darned her stockings. 
She mended a loop at the neck of her blouse. She 
had to wait for her hair to dry, too, after her bath ; 
it was no use trying to do it while the front locks 
were wet. She was not oppressed by loneliness. 
So much of it had been her share since her life 
began. Her patchwork life ! Satin by the side 
of sackcloth. These for the present were dimity 
days. She did not trouble herself about the future. 
Disagreeable things, once past, ceased to be keenly 



SECOND IMPRESSION 85 

disagreeable. Sitting on the edge of her bed, with 
knees crossed and slim foot swinging, the gaiety 
that rippled over her in company was translated 
to a warm stillness. Her eyes held the basking 
tranquillity of a cat on a wall. 

vShe put on her much-worn garments carefully. 
When she dressed with this precision her shabbi- 
ness enhanced her. Her one brown suit had served 
on all occasions. To run to the ham-and-beef shop, 
or — rare event — to go to see a friend. For this 
occasion she would put on her gloves before her 
jacket. That made all the difference. 

At last she was ready. She left her room and 
descended the noisy stairs. She roamed about the 
sitting-room, whistling softly, examining every- 
thing, curious, inattentive, while Mrs. Elkins was 
preparing lunch. She read the names on books: 
Shaw and Francis Adams, Conrad, Lecky, a Life 
of Garibaldi. She had no intention of reading 
them. Mrs. Elkins's own collection — Nothing to 
Nobody, Georgia Merlon, and the Adventures of 
Jimmy Bro%vn, left by a former lodger — would have 
interested her more. 

Mrs. Elkins brought in her dinner. Grilled 
steak hard as leather, and potatoes ; stewed rhubarb 
and "shape." She talked while the girl ate. 

"Don't you never feel lonely all alone. Miss? 
If I was to set still for a minute I couldn't abear 
myself. I have to be running about the house or 
feeding the chickens, or something. Setting idle 
with me hands in me lap would fair knock me." 

Nelly flavoured a hostile criticism in her speech. 

"Don't you never do no fancywork or nothing, 
Miss?" she questioned. 



86 THE CHORUS 

"I didn't bring any with me." Nelly laughed 
to herself. She remembered various pieces of 
"fancywork" sinking through a degradation of 
tangled silks and lost needles to oblivion. 

"Taking a holiday, I suppose, ^Nliss? W'ell, we 
all needs a rest at times. Would you care to see 
my chickens. Miss? \'ery early for them. I shall 
have a job to rear thnn, I expect." 

Nelly made the tour of the farm buildings, lazily 
sympathetic, listening at any rale. She carried the 
farm kitten upon lier shoulder, pink-nosed and full 
of fleas. 

The afternoon held disappointment. Anthony 
had gone away that morning with the Hanburys 
in their motor-car. Nelly, as she climbed the steep 
path to the studio, had "somehow felt" that she 
should not see him. The wet black earth, as yet 
unpierced by any green thing, was devoid of pro- 
mise. The narrow skirting path, repeating in 
miniature the broad steps and terraces of the main 
garden, made her feel furtive and intrusive. She 
was trespassing. Mr. Hamel's invitation gave her 
no sense of right there. She found herself hoping 
that she would not be seen. Through the bare 
fruit trees, as yet unflecked with chalk-white buds, 
she could see the broad expanses of the lawns and 
hear the voices of the men who were laying turf 
there. The steepness of the bank hid the house 
from her. She was a solitary wayfarer under the 
cold, translucent dome of the sky. She felt sud- 
denly that inexplicable sense of heartache and 
mystery that loneliness gives to a child. How 
should she look to Mr. Mamel to welcome her? 
Why should she expect anywhere secure footing 



SECOND IMPRESSION 87 

or a home ? Her confidence left her as if a warm 
cloak had been stripped away. It was a humble 
little girl at last who reached the studio door. 

Hilda was on the look-out for her. 

"Come along-," she said; "I can show you every- 
thing. We have it quite to ourselves." 

Nelly's heart contracted at the news. Hilda 
talked on, emphasizing, explaining. 

The studio was very large, lit from above, and 
surrounded by a slender gallery. It had windows 
also, facing south and north, big, prominent bays 
that could be shut off from the large room at will 
by sliding-doors. The southern one contained 
Hilda's table; the northern was Pandolefsky's 
den. 

Above them the gallery broadened into narrow 
upstair-rooms. The furnace dominated the western 
wall, and beside it the iron cooling table. These 
were immediately visible from the door. In that 
there was a wicket. 

"When we are working, anvone who comes with 
a message has to peep through there before they 
knock, for fear they'd startle us at a critical 
moment. ' Wait for the stroke ' — you know the 
sort of thing. If you wobble, putting things into 
the furnace, vou mess up your whole design. It's 
hard not to at first, though, especially if it's a very 
large plate. You have to hold it steady in the 
mouth of the oven for a minute or two till the 
water dries off. Then it's all in powder again. 
Then in it goes. There's a frightful row if 
Mr. Hamel is interrupted just then." 

Anthony was "frightfully fussy" at his work, 
apparently. They had to live at the same tem- 



88 THE CHORUS 

perature all the year round, and terrible things 
were said if the studio was too hot or too cold. 

A little staircase curved above the door. The air 
was full of the scent of matting and freshly planed 
wood. Built into the wall were immense presses. 

"When he comes back I expect he'll show you 
the jewels." 

" Is he away, then ? " 

"Ves. He went this morning with the Han- 
burys. He's building them a house somewhere. 
He's hardly ever at home all the week." 

Nelly's spirits, beaten to the water, as it were, 
by adverse gales, dipped, rose again, and sprang 
forward. She was positively glad. It was a 
respite, a relief. She would be able to poke about 
and enjoy herself without wondering all the time 
how she was looking and what was being thought 
of her. Hilda, secured all her life by money, a 
definite home, above all by her impersonal interest 
in things and her splendid cocksureness, had no 
conception of the desperate toil that the company 
of fellow-beings meant to Nelly. Hilda, who did 
the right things instinctively and cared no jot if 
she didn't, knew nothing of the doubts and shames 
that wrangled with gaiety in Nelly's breast. The 
girl was not yet sure of her charm, not certain if 
she were strong enough to "carry things ofif." She 
knew she could not be the conventional young lady ; 
she had not mastered the courage to be herself. 
Her ingenuousness and ignorance, attractive as it 
was, humiliated her. She was wearied with the 
burden of trying to please people. Men she found 
very easy to please ; with women her soul became 
hesitatinii' and servile. 



SECOND IMPRESSION 89 

Only Mrs. Hamel, however, with her barbed 
intelligence sharpened and perhaps just brushed 
with venom after many years of spectatorhood, 
could say of her thus accurately (as she had said 
the nig-ht before to Anthony) : "Too anxious to 
please." 

Hilda would at any time have scorned to be 
troubled by the trifles that tormented Nelly — whom 
to shake hands with first ; what implements to 
choose from those beside her plate at meal-times ; 
how much ice-pudding to take without being 
greedy; whether the hole in her stocking showed 
above the heel of her shoe; a dread of spilling 
her tea into her lap. Hilda never troubled in the 
least how she appeared. It was just her warm 
sympathy of heart that made her realize a little 
of what Nelly suffered. She responded to the pain, 
though she would have derided its cause. She 
was full of love for her protegee. 

She showed Nelly the glass they ground for the 
enamels, holding the rich slabs up to the light so 
that they glowed. The bowl of acid, the sheets of 
copper, the hammers, the shears. 

Nelly flung open the window and leaned out. 

" How beautiful it is ! I should never do a 
stroke of work here." 

Before her was the loveliest of English land- 
scapes. Small woods and pasture-land, the broad 
weald with its chess-board of fields and hedges, 
scattered roofs, hillocks and hollows, an intricacy 
of brownness and greenness stretching away into 
the distance, to the blue hills and the invisible 
sea. 

(Anthony regarded it as the justification of his 



40 THE CHORUS 

art. When younger men heckled him, saying, 
"An artist must reveal life as it really is," he 
would challenge them, laughing, "Well, come 
down, then, and see what I really see. / couldn't 
make hideous things without lying." This house 
of his was courteous response to loveliness.) 

The girls gazed in silence. A white' line of 
smoke like a hurrying caterpillar pushed its way 
across the country, coming from whence, going 
whither? They watched it out of sight. 

Nelly sighed. "Lucky you!" It was the 
nearest she could approach to envy. 

Hilda thought of her as a drifter in miserable 
seas cast suddenly upon an island. 

"Stay with me as long as you can," she said. 

Nelly squeezed her hand. 



CHAPTER V 

PRELUDE TO AN UNPLEASANT CONCLUSION 

Hilda was hammering a copper plate. As her 
strokes fell on the metal she sang- briskly. 

My heart ever faithful^ 
Sing prai-aises, be Joy-oy/ul, 
Sing prai-aises, be joy-oy-oy-yfiil. 

She was making what she called a "beautiful row." 
Her ears were deliberately full of it. It shut out 
something' she was anxious to hear. 

Nelly was lounging in the arm-chair bv the stove. 
The sunlight poured in upon her. Pandolefsky, 
seated on a low stool, pencil and block in hand, was 
making a drawing of her. He had attempted half- 
a-dozen in the past two days. Now Hilda had 
stated expressly that she hoped Nelly would be 
admired, and that Mr. Ilamel would make draw- 
ings of her. If Mr. Hamel, why not Pandolef- 
sky? Clearly she was illogical. She had brought 
the girl here. She had talked of her in the studio 
as well as in the house to Mrs. Hamel. Why, then, 
was she not better pleased with the effect she had 
made ? Was this effect of Hilda's making, though ? 
She had advertised the grace and beauty of the 
girl, her unexpectedness, her unprotectedness, her 
mingled diffidence and boldness, the occasional soft 
whirring of her Irish accent, her homelessness, 
the romantic mystery of her name. She had not 

41 



42 THE CHORUS 

mentioned the little faults, sharply contrasted as they 
were with the girl's indisputable dowry, the untidi- 
ness, the undaintiness of her, the fact that she said 
"an enemy " when she meant "anemone," the indis- 
creet comments and revelations that, however com- 
bated, popped time and again out of her tell-tale 
mouth. 

"You know, Hilda," she had said one day, "I 
never feel sure if I am talking- properly. I never 
know just what 1 ought to say." 

"My dear," cried Hilda, "say whatever comes into 
your head, of course. I don't know any other rule ! " 
"Ah, but you don't know the things that come 
into my head," Xelly responded sadly. She never 
patronized Hilda for her comparative inexperience. 
Above everything, when she thought at all, Nelly 
longed to be as other girls were, limited, and 
ignorant, and unfeeling. 

"It's horrible to know the sort of things I know," 
she complained. 

"Oh, I mean to know everything," said Hilda 
with her customary vigour, "anything that is good 
enough to happen is good enough to know about." 
"Ah, but it's different for you." 
If she could have put words on her thought 
she might have said that a conscious knowledge of 
evil had the beauty of mastery, but that the evil that 
was never thought about at all, that just soaked in 
and overwhelmed you, that had the ignominy of 
defeat. Such a reasoning Hilda could have agreed 
with, for the one thing she could not endure was 
invictoriousness. For that reason the less of sex a 
woman had about her the more she admired her. 
Nelly would listen in mute submission to her invec- 



PRELUDE 48 

tive against loss of self-control? "What is civili- 
zation except self-control?" "What is the use of 
self-knowledg-e if it doesn't help you to control your- 
self?" And so on, so many words to Nelly, who 
without understanding-, felt in her bones that Hilda 
did not know what she was talking about. She 
admired Hilda for this ignorance, however, more 
than for her positive qualities, and more than she 
admired Hilda she admired the tradition that had 
brought her up so blessedly untouched by experi- 
ence. Because Hilda disliked that tradition she 
had learnt all sorts of things with her head, but 
her bodv had never taught her anything; her body, 
in fact, would perhaps never learn anything. She 
puzzled Nelly. 

To the accompaniment of her hammering Hilda 
grimly pursued her thoughts, or rather, perhaps it 
would be more accurate to say, held her thoughts 
from her. 

"Don't look like that," said Pandolefsky under 
cover of the noise, "you madden me." 

Nelly trailed her eyelashes at him. 

"I mean it. Some night, when you are asleep, 
I shall come and carry you off." 

"That will be quite exciting." 

Nelly smiled provokingly. He was such a 
comical little figure with his stumpy bitten fingers 
and his legs filling his trousers like bolsters in 
bolster cases. 

"I stick at nothing." 

"In fact, you're a devil when you're roused." 

"I shall make you stop laughing at me." 

"Would you rather I scowled instead? " 

Silence. 



44 THE CHORUS 

"It is no good trying to draw you," he exclaimed 
after a moment, "why don't you keep still? " 

"I do keep still!" 

"You don't. You don't even try. Turn your 
head a little." 

"Say 'please.'" 

He sprang up, seized her chin, and jerked her 
head into the right position. "There! " 

"How dare you touch me?" 

"It's 3'our own fault. You dared me to do it. 
You should wear a label, ' Not to be touched.' It 
would make things plainer." 

"Don't be rude! " 

"Bah! As if you cared whether I am rude or 
not ? You do not care what men say to you as long- 
as you are admired. You are a coquette. Made- 
moiselle. There, it is spoiled." With a vicious 
movement he tore the sketch in half. Hilda, hear- 
ing the altercation, turned round. 

"Hulloa, what's the matter?" 

"Only Mr. Pandolefsky's idiotic temper." 

Nelly was enjoying herself. She was entirely 
accomplished in the technique of ' scenes.' The 
tension preceding an outbreak enlivened her. 

Hilda remonstrated. "Really you are a nuisance, 
you two." 

They had done no serious work for three days. 
It vexed her that for all warnings Nelly should be 
flirting with Pandolefsky. That they were flirting 
was undeniable, and yet Nelly made fun of the 
little man. She could not be accused of encourag- 
ing him. She was, if anything, too contemptuous. 
She obeyed all Hilda's theoretical rules, and vet the 
situation was most unsatisfactorv. Hilda main- 



PRELUDE 45 

tained that the only sort of women for whom sex 
relations were not undignified were women like 
Thai's or Semiramis, whose beauty brought all men 
suing to their feet, while their own hearts remained 
cold. She felt it to be an excellent theory, and yet, 
while there was Pandolefsky suing and literally at 
Nelly's feet on the studio floor, she was irritated. 
Somehow she did not like anyone to have really 
personal relations with Pandolefsky. Emotion of 
any sort in his regard was a familiarity. They had 
been so cool and pleasant and impersonal and polite 
in the studio before. It was like rousing the admira- 
tion of a waiter, of a shop-boy. It was too flattering 
to the creature. \\'hat a hateful snob she was! 
But she couldn't help it. She could not bear 
Pandolefsky to be flattered at Nelly's expense, and 
that was what it came to. Why didn't he see what 
a worm he was and how they mocked him ? She 
hammered furiously. 

She understood nothing. The simple rules of 
the game of provocation would have seemed to her 
merely disgusting. She could hear Nelly's exag- 
gerated snubs, but she could not see the message 
of her eyes and of the lines of her body. Pandolef- 
sky could see it. It was the old challenge of a 
man's physical strength — defiance and then flight. 
Pandolefsky rejoiced in it even when it angered 
him. As yet the scuflle was one of looks and 
words. It was ignominious, nevertheless. 

" I must not and will not be a prig," resolved 
Hilda. 

Going down to Elkins's that evening she hinted 
her doubts to Nelly. 

"It doesn't matter how many men you flirt with," 



46 THE CHORUS 

responded that young woman, "provided you don't 
fall in love with any of them. And I don't think 
you need be alarmed about Master Pandolefsky." 

Hilda was content that this was a triumphant 
doctrine. She could not prevision that Pandolefsky 
would succeed in catching- and kissing her little 
friend in the orchard next morning. 

"Nelly is gloriously beautiful," she thought. 
"She is sure to be splendid." 

So Anthony, returning to his studio, found Nelly 
established there. He was in good spirits, kind, 
vivacious, interested with apparent profundity, in 
the people about him. The novelty of the girl's 
bright presence pleased him. He unlocked the big 
steel-lined doors of the presses and displayed their 
treasures. Nelly made an exotic and fascinating 
spectacle — a wood-nymph strayed into civilization, 
Psyche in the house of love. Her wonder and 
delight were so simple. Really to touch these 
things, to run her hands through them ! She sat 
on the floor, her hair illumined by a beam of dusty 
sunshine, and received the jewels in her lap. An- 
thony, amused at her frank pleasure, heaped them 
upon her. Radiant pearls, chrysoprase and garnet, 
dim milky opals, chrysolite and sapphire, "and the 
ones you will like best," aquamarines, blue-green 
and sparkling like the sea. "Oh, yes, 1 like these 
best of all." 

He showed her a pendant he was making : an 
orange tree, revealing through its branches the 
south wind touching the strings of a lute. 

"This is for a lady who comes from vSpain, via 
the United States. Someday when you are rich 
and famous PlI make something for you." 



PRELUDE 47 

"Oh, I shall have to wait a desperate time, then." 

He chaffed her. "Anyone could see you were 
destined to wear your diamonds at the opera." 

She shook her head. "Joey Harrison doesn't 
care for music." 

"And who, pray, is Joey Harrison?" 

"He's my fiance,'' replied Nelly, with startling 
simplicity. "I shall have to marry him some day. 
I'd rather not talk about him." 

She inspected a jewel against the end of her hair. 

"My dearest child, you mustn't talk of marriage 
like that." 

Seeing the impression she had made she de- 
scribed the predestined ogre. 

"And he has tufts in his ears and red hair on the 
backs of his hands — " she completed the picture. 
It made a great sensation. Andromeda menaced 
by the sea monster could not have aroused more 
sympathy and apprehension. Hilda had not before 
treated as serious the talk of "Joey Harrison who 
pays the bills." Shocked from her calm disbelief, 
she chafed for a rescue. 

"You must refuse to do such a thing. You can't 
be coerced. Nelly, it's horrible ! " 

"Ah, well, I just don't bother about it. I've a 
year or two, anyway." She smiled her careless 
smile. "Time enough to think about it then." 

They visioned her after this with a crooked 
horror ever at her heels. It was the required note 
of romance. 



CHAPTER VI 

ASIDE 

Mrs. Hamel took but little part in the comings 
and goings at The Height. It was one of 
Anthony's principles that his old friends should 
not disappear before his rising fame; also, though 
he cared very much for their artistic perceptions 
and preferences, he cared nothing at all for the 
sort of lives they led. When, on one or two occa- 
sions his wife attempted argument, he had remarked 
with impatience that he did not propose to write 
biography. "As long as I like them I am quite 
satisfied." In consequence some really atrocious 
people had turned up occasionally, and yet Anthony 
had never allowed Lady Kayle Podsnap to be asked 
a second time, though the daughter of a duke and 
morally irreproachable, because he had heard her 
say that she liked Murillo. He called her "that 
horrid woman," "perverse," and a "slug-eater"; 
incidentally, the poor lady was very plain. 

Mrs. Hamel had at first .presented an opposition 
of feigned chilliness; but in the end she had been 
forced to yield. It was a veritable martyrdom for 
the poor little lady, and she did not attempt to 
disguise her annoyance from her own friends. 
That was why she invited Miss Fitch and Mrs. 
Arden so often, and Mrs. Eckstein, who had been 
at school with her (though she, indeed, was a little 

48 



ASIDE 49 

too smart to be quite relied upon). They made at 
any rate, whatever their opinions, a reputable 
barrier between their hostess and the unspeak-to- 
ables. They could keep a party together and laugh 
at their own tolerance, and they enabled Mrs. 
Hamel, when she felt her moral sense strained 
beyond endurance, to spend the week-end comfort- 
ably in bed. 

Never once was she known to waver or hesitate, 
or soften her glassy precision. Throned in her 
great bed, with its faintly garlanded hangings, she 
could lie and polish her nails or read the latest 
novel, and let the news of the house reach her 
purified, filtered, as it were, through other eyes 
and mouths. vShe thought that a social wreck 
should be a complete one. 

" I could forgive a woman who really sacrificed 
everything for love," she sometimes said. 

"Sacrificing everything" meant also that she 
would not be likely to have to meet the lady. 
These new, unsinkable craft were an abomination. 
She often said that a wave of depravity was sweep- 
ing over England. She wished, if people must 
elope, that they would elope to South Africa or 
New Zealand, not to West End addresses. It made 
her feel that her own virtue was a little wasted if 
these bad people were so prosperous. 

She disliked the women more than she disliked 
the men. For these she could, to a certain extent, 
make allowances. She did not mind harbouring 
them, as it were, so long as she was not expected, 
even for courtesy's sake, to modify her views. She 
could permit them, in rare tete-d-tcte conversings, 
to tell her that she was not as other women were. 

E 



50 THE CHORUS 

" I suppose not," she Avould say, drooping her eye- 
lids modestly and Hfting up her head. She could 
almost like them as long as their womenfolk did 
not intrude. "I have never seen the creature, and 
so far as I am concerned she does not exist." 
When, as sometimes happened, one of these men, 
revealing unsuspected depths of both "real" and 
"moral" feeling, married a former mistress, or 
went for her sake through the dirt of the divorce 
court, Mrs. Hamel adopted an attitude towards him 
of contemptuous pity : "Surely it was not necessary 
for him to marry her ! " 

"But, Erica," Miss Fitch might expostulate, 
"you used to complain before because they weren't 
married. Now you complain because they are ! " 

"I suppose it's only a matter of 'feeling,'" 
Mrs. Hamel would reply sorrowfully. "You do 
not mind. Well, it makes things easier for you. 
I, unfortunately, cannot help feeling strongly 
about these things. Whatever you say, I do not 
feel that such a union is the right basis for happy 
married life. Marriage is a little more, to my mind, 
than the mating of beasts." 

They would agree with her on that point, and, 
to tell the truth, most of her relentless hostilities 
were rather pleasing. They received from them 
such a sense of personal charitableness. 

Or Mrs. Hamel would complain: "Surely there 
are plenty of charming girls unmarried. AMiy 
couldn't he choose one of them?" 

"Dear Erica, girls are becoming so hygienic 
nowadays, they aren't fascinated by the reformed 
rake any more." 

Mrs. Hamel said she preferred not to discuss 



ASIDE 51 

that point. There were very many aspects of life 
which she preferred not to discuss. 

Her favourite themes were those in the discussion 
of which she could conscientiously praise her own 
virtues and good luck, beginning with the fact that 
she had married at nineteen. 

"She likes despising women," Hilda said to Miss 
Fitch as they descended the stairs together. "She 
simply revels in despising them." 

"Faith, Hope and Chastity," murmured Miss 
Fitch, "and the greatest of these " 

Hilda herself Mrs. Hamel liked as much as she 
could be said to like any human being. She envied 
the girl nothing, thought her often ridiculous and 
told her so, but Hilda was above all things well 
behaved, she showed no disposition to make "a 
fool of herself," she could in safely have "an eye" 
taken off her. 

"I don't much care what a woman says to me," 
Mrs. Hamel would say. "I am not shocked by 
plain speaking. But when she has talked Brother- 
hood of Man up here and then goes down and 
strokes her ankles in the drawing-room — frankly, 
it disgusts me. If they must come, they must. I 
don't wish to appear intolerant, but as I cannot 
exchange a word with them without having to say, 
' I can't agree,' or (what would be nearer the truth) 
* I know you are telling lies, and so do you,' it's 
tiring, and 1 prefer to remain upstairs. My bed- 
room, at least, is my own." 

Even that bedroom was defiled on one occasion, 
however, when Lady Hallam, kindest and most 
generous of women, with one failing ("a modern 
Lucrezia Borgia" and "a female Henry VHl " she 



52 THE CHORUS 

was called in that sanctum), hearing of Mrs. 
Hamel's indisposition, came to make inquiries and 
remained seated on the foot of the bed for a whole 
afternoon. 

"What I have suffered!" said poor Mrs. 
Hamel. She said to Hilda — 

"I don't understand these women. My own 
friends, and the people from whom I come, fell in 
love and got married in church and led contented 
lives, and now we have nothing but the wildest 
talk and behaviour." 

"Perhaps it's the mothers' fault," suggested 
Hilda. "They put up with all kinds of things, 
and now we have the reactions — like me." 

"Oh, you're not like that. Your notions are 
absurd, of course, but you are a girl. I like girls 
to be girls, and married women to be married 
women, not " 

She checked herself. 

"And men to be men?" suggested Hilda slyly. 

Mrs. Hamel suspected the trap, for Hilda had 
caught her before. 

"Men, and not paragons," she said. 

"Hut what do you mean by that? You must 
give a definition." 

"Well, that is fairly simple I don't think a 
man ought to have a theory until he has a banking 
account. I like men to be well turned out and to 
be strong and capable and able to face things 
without two hundred silly scruples and considera- 
tions. I hate them to be goody-goody and inter- 
ested in soul-slales. I like lo think that there arc 
people in the world capable of doing things that I 
am afraid to do myself. As a matter of fact — " 



ASIDE 58 

she glanced downwards for a moment at her hands 
— "I like a man to be in the Army." 

She raised her eyes and gave Hilda a long 
glance, almost as if she had been talking to a 
Guardsman. 

"Then, of course," said Hilda, "you insist that 
this ideal gentleman must be spotlessly pure indeed. 
You can't have your ' womanly ' woman and your 
' manly ' man in the same world, you know. The 
ideals as at present defined clash hopelessly. 
They've got to be very, very good together or not 
at all." 

"Really, Hilda," said Mrs. Hamel, "I don't 
think the conversation is becoming quite nice." 

"And there she goes," Hilda lamented to Miss 
Fitch, "before you have nailed her down, back into 
her prunes and prisms. She thinks she's discuss- 
ing an intellectual problem, while really it is simply 
' what I tell you three times is true.' " 

"Cheer up, my child," said Miss Fitch encourag- 
ingly; "nearly all arguments are just like that. 
Look at the Parliament Act ! " 

As may be supposed, Nelly was a great source 
of annoyance to Mrs. Hamel. The girl was so 
utterly without roots or background. She was sure 
Hilda's "people" would disapprove the alliance. 

"We have quite enough of a Wonder Zoo at 
The Height as it is without adding Hilda's 
specimens," she had remarked acidly. 

She did not like the mixture of humbleness 
towards women and boldness towards men that 
she noted in Nelly. She told Hilda so. 

"She's not like that when you get to know her," 
Hilda had asserted, in quick defence. 



54 THE CHORUS 

"I don't think I care very much for people that 
one has to get to know. We had a young man 
to stay with us once who used to help himself to 
fruit salad with his own spoon. They told me I 
should like hivi when I got to know him. But I 
never did get to know him. Even Tony did not 
insist upon asking him again. Tony does not 
really care for physical piggishness." 
Her slow voice came back to Nelly. 
" Why does she wriggle ? " she asked absently. 
"You make her nervous, I suppose," said Hilda. 
"You would make me nervous if I let you for a 
single moment." 

Mrs. Hamel smiled, but she refused to be dis- 
tracted from her quarry. 

"She seems to me to alter the very tone of her 
voice when she speaks to a man." 

"Yes, I know she makes a difference," said Hilda 
uncomfortably, "but then she hasn't any theo- 
ries as to how she should behave, so she's quite 
consistent." 

Mrs. Hamel ignored the thrust. 
" What are her people ? " 
"I don't know. I haven't asked her." 
"Publicans, I dare say. All the prettiest girls 
for the stage are recruited from publicans, I am 
told. They get better fed in their youth — or some- 
thing. Or perhaps it was a sweet shop. I can 
imagine her selling sweets and cramming her mouth 
with all the extra ones." 

("A recollection of school-days," thought Hilda.) 
She said, "She told me her people had property 
in the South of Ireland, She lived there when she 
was a child." 



ASIDE 55 

"Land agents," said Mrs. Hamel. 

"Perhaps. I don't think so. It doesn't matter, 
does it? She can sit a horse, at any rate." 

"Circus riders!" cried Mrs. Hamel triumph- 
antly. She was well pleased with this explanation. 

From that on she sometimes referred to Nelly as 
the "circus rider." 



CHAPTER VII 

EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 

Nelly Hayes, perched high on a straight-backed 
chair in the studio, watched the flies swinging and 
swimming in dizzying monotony from balcony to 
balcony and wall to wall. They would collide and 
whirl together for a moment, separate, and then 
backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. 
They were old flies, hoary Methuselahs that had 
survived the winter, thanks to Anthony's heating- 
apparatus. They were as sickening to watch as 
the old men of the pavements. 

"What are you thinking about?" asked 
Anthony. He was sitting astride a low bench, 
with his back to the light, drawing her. He wore 
the white jersey he worked in, and his red hair 
was rumpled and standing on end. At intervals 
he tossed his head, shaking the hair backwards 
and out of his eyes as a horse tosses his harness. 

Hilda was busy with some work of her own, and 
the tinkling of her hammer sounded clearly. 

"I wasn't thinking at all," said Nelly. "I was 
watching the flies." 

At his voice thought of herself awoke and she 
became self-conscious. Her cheeks grew hot as 
she encountered his eyes. 

"How vour face changes I " said Anthony. 
56 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 57 

"You had just the right detached expression. 
Here, look up again, quickly." 

He was going to enamel her for a chapel in 
Wesionbury. 

"Little children will say their prayers to you." 

"I shall give them whatever they ask for, then," 
said Xelly. 

He had drawn the golden head in a hundred 
postures. "So fresh," he had said to Hilda, talk- 
ing about Nelly as if she were not present, "but 
so complete. It is not often that a child passes 
straight into girlhood without the clumsy sort of 
immaturity. \\'hen it happens it's the loveliest 
thing in the world." 

Anthony did not often take much interest in 
people except in their presence. He cjuestioned 
Hilda one morning, however, which was a rare 
thing for him to do. 

"That child — what is her mother thinking 
about?" He was looking into thr furnace and 
his voice was preoccupied. 

"I'm afraid her mother thinks of anything but 
Nelly." 

"A bad lot, I suppose?" 

"It's hard to say. Nelly seems to admire her 
greatly." 

"Whv isn't she with her, then?" 

Hilda laughed. 

"I've asked her that, but she gives such a 
peculiar reason ! She says her mother is a very 
beautiful woman." 

"Uml" said Anthony. He was bettor able to 
estimate the meaning of that answer than Hilda. 

For him the young face had a most tender appeal. 



58 THE CHORUS 

She seemed to regard life with so little criticism, 
with so much acceptance. Ardent Keath, coming- 
in, had remarked it too. 

"Like an angel that has never looked over the 
wall of Paradise." 

What did the future hold for her? When she 
heard what Ardent Keath said she had bent her 
head and smiled at him with such piteous eyes. 
Was it for herself she was sorry? It angered 
Anthony to think of the beautiful face encountering 
horrors. He refused at last to hold such a con- 
jecture. It became customary for him to find her 
in the studio every afternoon. Mrs. Hamel had 
asked with her habitual languor 

"What have you been busy with to-day, dear?" 
and when upon several days in succession he had 
answered briefly, "Oh, drawing Nelly Hayes," she 
had opened wide eyes. 

"Is she a model, then?" she had inquired. 
Models she accepted as she accepted mutton. 

"She is my model," said Anthony cheerfully. 
He was making a large tea. As he ate his sally- 
lunns he added, "By the way, I want some bright 
green silk to drape her with. Blue, somehow, is 
not her colour." 

They had decided that yesterday, he and Hilda. 

"I didn't know she was a model," persisted 
Mrs. Hamel. 

"She's not," said Anthony testily. "I told you 
I was drawing her head." 

Having learned what she wanted to know, Mrs. 
Hamel sent for her maid. 

"Go and fetch that roll of green silk out of the 
chest in my dressing-room." She said to Anthony : 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 59 

"I thought you were going to have those chairs 
covered with it." There was just a breath, a 
whisper of expostulation in her voice. Anthony 
ignored it. 

"Good ! " he cried when he saw the silk. "That's 
the very tliin^-. When did I buy that ? It was 
very clever of me ! " 

Mrs. Hamel's gaze, following him as he strode 
away, was almost wistful. She remembered the 
time in the St. John's Wood days when he had 
spent day after day drawing her head. That was 
when he made the little silver-point portrait of her 
that hung above his bed. It was characteristic of 
her: delicate, cool, a trifle distant. She sent the 
maid for another shawl to cover her. 

"I wish the warm weather would begin," she 
murmured. 

The green silk had a mad success in the studio. 

"I'll have to paint you in that, too," said 
Anthony. "I haven't touched oils for years. Pity 
the saints always wear blue. That suits you much 
better." 

"I expect that, for all her angelic expression, 
there's something unsaintly about her that spoils 
the harmony," suggested Steven Young, who 
happened to be there. 

"Isn't this splendid?" said Anthony, arranging 
the folds. "She's like a sea-princess, or a wood- 
spirit." 

It was Steven who discovered the right name 
for her. "Rapunsel," he said. 

Nelly was always given pet names. She accepted 
"Rapunsel " just as she had accepted "Baby " from 
Joey Harrison. 



60 THE CHORUS 

"But I won't let anyone go climbing up my 
hair," she said, when they told her the story. 

"Not even the King's son ? " suggested Anthony. 

She gave him a look. 

"You haven't seen witches dancing, have you, 
Rapunsel ? " Steven asked her. 

"I've seen all sorts of things, Mr. Young," 
replied Nelly tartly. 

"And that settles you, young man," laughed 
Anthony. 

They were a merry party in the studio. 

It was inevitable that the admiration of so famous 
a man as Anthony should be echoed with voluble 
enthusiasm by those who, in their turn, admired 
himself. It was an easy and unservile way of 
paying him a compliment. 

Nelly, perched above the throng of "week- 
enders" in her shining gown, was a centre of 
petting and flattery. Steven Young would come 
and stretch his length upon the hearthrug, watch- 
ing her through half-closed, impersoinal eyes, 
smoking innumerable cigarettes. Ardent Keath 
would bring up the elaborate artillery of his com- 
pliments ("Twelve-point-five," as Miss Fitch called 
them). Or there would be a young painter from 
town eager with pencil or "wash" to "have a 
shot " at her. Kindly women led her to view their 
treasures and hung beads or lace collars about her 
neck. 

Nelly could not understand why. Young men 
were anxious to show her the view from the 
Warren or teach her to play golf. Nelly under- 
stood that better. 

"What it wall be when the nightingales are 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 61 

singing " said Miss Fitch, catching sight of 

the situation. 

They did their best to spoil Nelly among them, 
and the women were more dangerous than the men. 
At men's judgment she could laugh unconcernedly. 
"Men are all alike; if it wasn't me it'd be some- 
body else." The flattery of the women made her 
uncomfortable. They were so fashionable, so 
travelled, so experienced, so accomplished, so 
extravagant, so sure of themselves ! It was difticult 
for her to keep her head. She strove not to forget 
her shortcomings, to remember their incredibly 
dainty ways, their lingerie, all the brushing, and 
polishing, and perfuming, and reading, and ex- 
changing of letters; the gossip, the tea-parties, the 
theatres, concerts, picture-shows. It puzzled her 
how they found time for it all. She was a savage 
beside them. 

"They make me feel as if I lived in a cave," she 
said mournfully to Hilda. 

"They make me feel as if I lived in a harem," 
said that young woman stoutly. 

She was disgusted and fatigued with all the 
preening and strutting. She loathed the perpetual 
consciousness of appearance and clothes. She was 
filled with physical irritation by them; she could 
not work ; she could not concentrate. The studio 
seemed to have exchanged its tranquil atmosphere 
for the trivialities of the drawing-room. She felt 
them to be insincere. They would talk about Art 
to Mr. Hamel, but they never discussed a theory 
among themselves. She wondered, a trifle bitterly, 
how much attention they would bestow upon Nelly 
if Mr. Hamel were not an admirer too. They were 



62 THE CHORUS 

not the sort of people to see for themselves. She 
damned them vigorously and moved with more 
deliberate ungainliness than ever. 

Nelly had to grow used to being talked about 
and admired in detail as if she were some soulless 
objet d'art. She no longer grew self-conscious or 
suffered from embarrassment. There seemed to be 
no end to the interest they took. 

One day in the studio they did up her hair to 
see how it would look, pulling pins from their own 
elaborate tresses to supply hers. Then clapping of 
hands, laughter and a sly — 

"Why don't you always wear it up?" 

(They suspected her of being older than she was.) 

"Oh, I'm holding that in reserve," answered 
Nelly truthfully. 

That delighted them, of course. The girl always 
seemed to speak "in character." 

Hilda herself began to sink into a softness of 
admiration. Idolatry is very infectious. She found 
she could love Nelly better for not criticizing her. 
These people, too, however little they meant what 
they said, seemed to summon in the girl a response 
that was both sweet and dignified. With them she 
was always on her good behaviour. There was 
only one frequenter of the studio, indeed, who 
seemed in no way to share the general enthusiasm, 
and that was Pandolefsky. It was not to be won- 
dered at, for after his brief experience as an im- 
portant person during the first days of Nelly's 
stay, he had been dropped with completeness into 
oblivion. He attributed this to snobbishness on 
Nelly's part, when it was simply that she did not 
like him. She had enjoyed "larking" with hini 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 63 

when there was no one preferable about, but once 
her preference was tixed she hardly remembered 
iiis existence. Nelly's knock became a signal for 
him, when the "boss" was present, to unhook his 
coat and, slinginj^ it across his shoulder, to slouch 
to his room in the house. liamel, and most other 
men, filled him with a malevolent jealousy. He 
despised while ho envied them. He hated himself 
because he lacked their easy ways and assurance 
and their smooth hands, and at the same time he 
regarded them as fools. If they tried to be friendly 
with him and talked of his work he felt and 
resented their unconscious patronage. If they 
ignored him he resented them still more. Anthony 
had discovered him at the factory, or perhaps it 
was his talent that discovered itself. He had 
brinight him to The Height, fed, and housed, 
and paid him lavishly, treated him as a comrade, 
praised his talent; but all the while Pandolefsky 
was thinking how small was his reward compared 
with Anthony's, how little his patience and skill 
counted compared with a spoken word or a few 
lines scrawled on a piece of paper. It certainly 
was disproportionate. Hamel said to him, "You 
will never be an artist, Pandolefsky, until you love 
your work." But how could he love his work when 
another man received all the glory of it? Anthony 
had brought him from the factory only that he 
might make better use of him, not that his talent 
might have wider scope. No, assuredly the debt 
of gratitude was not on his side. All of which was 
perfectly true and natural, in so far as human nature 
contradicts the supreme truth that it is better to 
give than to receive. 



64 THE CHORUS 

Unto this existence Nelly had added the final 
smart. She could not guess the agony of humilia- 
tion and spite that raged in Pandolefsky's breast. 
They all excused his surliness to one another on 
the ground that there was a social revolution afoot. 

"It's coming gradually," said Steven Young; 
"the change from the old servility to the good 
manners of equal beings. Meanwhile the transition 
stage, I admit, is unpleasing." 

"1 don't think Pandolefsky has given much 
attention to the social revolution," said Hilda. 

"Perhaps not. But he's a sign of the times, all 
the same." 

"A regular revolving sky-sign," embellished 
Nelly in her grave sing-song. 

She was sitting on a corner of the table darning 
the curtain that a slamming window had torn. Her 
slim black ankles in their silk stockings (Hilda's 
stockings) were crossed beneath her. Her head was 
bent. She was tranquil domesticity incarnate. 

Anthony said, "Don't waste eyesight over that. 
Give it to one of the servants." 

"Oh, but I like doing it. It makes me feel not 
quite so useless." 

"Aren't you content to be sweet and beautiful? 
You might as well want birds to drag carts. Con- 
sider the lilies of the field," they chanted at her. 

Nelly puckered her brows. "But, you see, I've 
a reason for doing this." 

" What reason ? " 

She smiled without answering them. Had she 
spoken her thought she would have said, "This 
flower is putting out roots." 

Rooted Nelly certainly was in a mysterious 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 65 

fashion. It became customary for Anthony to find 
her in the afternoons busied with little tasks of her 
own imposing. Grinding glass for Hilda in a 
mortar, perhaps, teeth on edge, grimacing expres- 
sively, or cutting bread and butter while the kettle 
boiled for tea. They seemed never to take tea 
at Elkins's now. Nelly had introduced a spirit- 
lamp and had requisitioned cups frorn her lodging. 
Their chipped, discoloured ugliness reminded 
Anthony of midnight "spreads" at boarding- 
school. The whole thing somehow — it puzzled him 
— had a spice of adventure about it. The thick 
bread and butter — Nelly was invincibly clumsy 
with her hands — did not prevent his enjoying a 
second tea at the house later. He was grateful to 
the girls, he said, for allowing him to belong still 
to the fraternity of youth. 

He liked to picture the studio while he was away, 
and Nelly a good-humoured presence in it. He 
never pictured it without her. Her memory rose 
to his eyes, full of interest in everything, altogether 
without egotism, importunate of kindness. He 
began to look forward to his returns, to the moment 
when, hands in pockets, whistling, he would stroll 
along the flagged causeway from the house, shaking 
back his thick hair, feeling with uplifted head the 
fresh air of the country upon his throat, grasping 
with his eyes the contrasted beauties of house and 
lawn and spreading landscape, rejoicing in his 
ownership. Sometimes he would break his journey, 
descending upon a gardener to know what glory 
was to quicken the flower-beds, to return leisurely 
across the lawns, and then, with a sudden spring 
of boyish activity, fling himself two steps at a time 
r 



66 THE CHORUS 

up the last terrace and burst upon them in the studio 
like a hurricane. 

"Here's the boss! Hello, Boss! Come and 
have some tea." 

It was less like coming to his own house than 
being the welcomed guest in some house of friend- 
liness. Then they would talk and laugh and ex- 
change the news of the last few days while the 
kettle was boiling, and then would come Nelly's 
delicious voice, as she wrapped her handkerchief 
round the handle, "H-O-T ! It is H-O-T ! " 

Then he would explain some new design to 
Hilda; or, taking a fine brush, correct some of 
her drawings, moving the wet glass with infinite 
precision on the plate. 

"How you do it " Hilda would sigh admir- 
ingly; and Nelly, unconscious that she said any- 
thing comical, would comment — 

" My, you are a dab ! " 

Anthony and Hilda would laugh joyfully at her. 
That was how he remembered her when he was 
away. 

When he was at home after a long day's work 
he would find himself listening for her footfall, 
for the persuasive, "May I come in?" at the 
wicket. He liked to shout "Come in ! " and remain 
with his back turned a minute, seeing her in his 
mind before he turned to confirm the wonder of his 
vision. Or he would catch sight of her slipping 
up the garden by the little path, and know that her 
bright eyes, fixed on the window, already held his 
image. He would show no sign of seeing her, but 
his mouth would smile as he bent above the table. 

At the week-ends it was that Nelly held her court. 



EARLY SOWING IN A WARM BORDER 67 

Visitors were eager to be invited to have tea in 
the studio. Nelly's cracked cups were rarer quality 
than Mrs. Hamel's Coalport. 

"Nelly is the child of the house," Anthony said 
once; "it needed a child." Somehow the phrase 
put a satisfactory colouring upon the affair. She 
was a child, a lovely, delightful child. "The child 
of the house " was a pleasant thing to say ; kind 
and simple and explanatory. But the house itself, 
gleaming across the garden, might have been a 
thousand miles away. The girls seldom went near 
it. It watched them come and go patiently, a little 
reproachfully. 



CHAPTER VIII 

CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 

Otterbridge at all times of the year is a pleasant 
place to stay in, and the Spring filled the girls with 
its own keenness and energy. In the lengthening 
evenings they explored the countryside, finding new 
paths, testing short cuts, and inventing rights of 
way. It was still a foreign country to Hilda after 
the short, much-occupied Winter days. 

On the common, in one of the big, red, weather- 
tiled houses, lived the Spink girls, three bold 
orphans, whose sanity, according to Miss Fitch, 
"almost amounted to genius," and who Mrs. Hamel 
wished — "though of course they can afford to do 
as they please " — would get a chaperon. The young 
women themselves always hailed any suggestion 
with whoops of mockery. "Poor old thing! 
Can't you see her pegging after us in elastic-sided 
boots? Imagine her caught on a barbed wire fence 
by her black bombazine bustle ! " They told Mrs. 
Hamel it was hardly fair of her to want to afflict 
any human being Vv'ith them. ("As if she herself 
wasn't enough to keep a whole diocese on its best 
behaviour.") "Really, Mrs. Hamel, it isn't at all 
necessary ! " 

"Of course it isn't necessary," said Mrs. Hamel, 
impatience stirring her carefully drawled voice; "if 
you were the sort of girls for whom it was really 

68 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 69 

necessary, I should not be speaking to you about 
it " 

"In fact you wouldn't be speaking to us at 
all ! " 

"It isn't as if you couldn't find a perfectly pre- 
sentable person," Mrs. Hamel had continued — she 
herself indeed knew of several — "all you want is 
some nice middle-aged woman " 

"A little softened by time and saddened by 
years " 

"To live at the house " 



And carve the mutton- 



"And help you with your guests." 

"And rub us with camphorated oil when we are 
ill." 

"She need not go about with you at all. Her 
authority would be purely nominal." 

"She'd let us off on Sundays, Christmas Day, 
and the aforesaid national Bank Holidays, which 
are " 

"I am sure vour dear mother " 



But there Mrs. Hamel made the fatal mistake. 
To "dish up" either of their dead parents to the 
Spink girls was an infamy and a sacrilege. It 
didn't hurt the "disher" you see, but it hurt them 
most horribly. They told her roundly 

"Dear Mrs. Hamel, we are not out for young 
men, so we don't see what propriety has to do with 
us. We've no wish to outrage anyone's feelings, 
and we're not going to, so far as we know at 
present, so conventions of the chaperon kind are 
simply absurd for us " 

"Of course if we feel our passions at any time 
getting beyond our control " 



70 THE CHORUS 

"If we find our feet set untwistably upon the 
downward way ^" 

They would advertise in all the London papers 
and have a guardian at once. 

"An awfzil one." 

Meanwhile, if they felt a need for advice, "a 
grey head," "the wisdom that only years and experi- 
ence can bring," they would come to Mrs. Hamel. 

In fact they had been very nearly rude. 

Hilda had made, naturally, a great augmenting 
of their forces. They often joined her and Nelly 
on the walks. They were inveterate trespassers and 
regarded notice-boards as simple incitements to 
crime. 

"Come and wake the pheasants," Miss Spink 
would say as they climbed a fence. 

Nelly was a trifle shocked by them. 

They had nick-names for all the keepers. There 
were "Alphonso," and "Muriel," a fair young man, 
and "Corney-toes," whose disability was obvious, 
and "Gosh," who had been overheard once so to 
exclaim in an East wind, and several others. Nelly 
was more reverent than the Spink girls. She 
thought "Alphonso" handsome. After all a man 
was a man even if he were dressed in brow-n velve- 
teen. "Nelly is right," they admitted, "Alphonso 
is not bad looking at all. In fact he is ter-uly 
bee-utiful." They eyed her curiously. It was her 
turn to shock them when they heard that she had 
smoked a cigarette with "Muriel " in the woods one 
morning. 

"I begin dimly to perceive the point of some of 
Mrs. Hamel's arguments," the eldest Miss Spink 
had murmured. 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 71 

"Oh nonsense, Mary Katherine," her juniors 
implored her. "Remember you're eighteen." 

Hilda had fought on the younger side. Was it 
not hypocrisy of the worst sort for them to believe 
in the brotherhood of man, as they did, and 
object to a practical exposition of it? Nelly had 
her own notions and did not disguise them. 
Hilda almost argued herself into peace of mind. 
All the same she wished Nelly would not hang 
about the woods by herself in the mornings, and 
told her so. 

"Because, after all, they aren't very interesting 
men, are they? " She tried to pretend that if they 
were interesting she would not feel any wish to 
condemn Nelly. 

The week-ends were happier when Miss Fitch or 
Steven Young came down, and they played golf 
or made long expeditions together. Miss Fitch, 
however, would not always come. She found the 
Spinks too "bracing." 

"They are so ruthlessly young and clearly think 
me a hundred. It's a great honour to be invited by 
them, but still " 

They certainly had an embarrassing way of dis- 
cussing people as if the object of the discussion 
were not present. Nelly had a good deal of it in 
the studio but it was all flattery there. Here she 
was not so sure. 

"She is the pre-Victorian woman," they would 
say; "she speaks before she thinks." 

"She belongs to the fairy-princess tradition. 
Observe her hair." That was better. 

"Is she good-tempered, Hilda, or does she have 
tantrums ? " 



72 THE CHORUS 

"I get into rages sometimes, if that's what you 
mean," said Nelly politely. 

"Of course you do. When you grow older 1 
believe you'll be able to throw things. Plates full 
of eggs and bacon ! Toast-racks ! What a time 
you'll have." 

"Mother did that once," said Nelly, "and she 
was disgusted afterwards." 

"Oh, did she?" Katherine Spink was covered 
with confusion. "I'm most frightfully sorry for 
making such a stupid remark," she apologized. 

"Oh, I don't mind," said Nelly. She was 
puzzled by them. 

They had great fun when Steven Young brought 
down an old college friend to The Height, a 
sceptical, metaphysical young man with eyeglasses, 
who announced that he was a Strindbergian and 
had no illusions. They made Nelly promise to pay 
him a great deal of attention. She said she would 
do her best to "blandish " him. Steven Young was 
horrified. 

"You dreadful young villains," he said, "to want 
to destroy a man's peace of mind." 

"Not his peace of mind, Stevie dear," they 
chorused at him. "Not his peace of mind, his 
conceit." 

The young man proved invulnerable however. 
He told Steven Young, "Really I don't know why 
women still think men can be amused by that sort 
of thing." 

Nelly failed to be amused either. 

" I like a man to be a man," she said 

"You mean you like his face to be red and his 
neck to bulge above his collar ? " 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 78 

"You like him simple-minded and muscular. 
You would like him to be able to carry you twenty 
miles on his shoulder without panting." 

"I certainly should like him not to get tired 
before I did," said Nelly, a trifle sulkily. 

"I wonder how you will like Cousin Edward?" 
said the eldest Miss Spink. "Girls, how do you 
think she will like Teddie Armour? What do you 
bet he succumbs at once ? " 

They put on a shilling promptly. 

"You'll have to say he won't, Nelly. Then you'll 
win four bob for certain." 

"Hi5 neck bulges above his collar, or it will in a 
year or two," they told Nelly, "and he is all that 
a young man, a nice young man, ' such a nice boy,' 
should be. There's no nasty sophistication about 
him. He hasn't had his masculinity destroyed by 
higher education. He's at Cambridge. We call 
him * the blushful Hippocrene ' — it's a way he has." 

They caught Nelly by the arms and galloped 
wildly with her over the grass. 

"You may marry him, Nellikins. We give you 
leave to marry him. I should love to see your 
meeting with our Aunt Jobiska." 

What strange girls they were ! Nelly knew how 
few of the attentive people she met would be willing 
to form a closer alliance with her. 

"I shall be very nice to him," she said. 

"As if you could be anything else ! " 

They discussed his approaching visit seated in 
conclave at the edge of the Warren. The delicate 
smell of pine trees and bracken stems surrounded 
them. They felt the Spring sunshine warm upon 
their faces. 



74 THE CHORUS 

"Curious I " said the eldest Miss Spink with level 
eyes upon the distant landscape. "I should like the 
world to be full of men like Teddie Armour, just 
because I don't like that sort of man. They might 
sit in rows and rows and they wouldn't worry me 
and I shouldn't worry them, and it wouldn't worry 
me that I didn't worry them." 

"Oh, stow it," her sisters implored her. 

"The sort of young man I should like to be," 
said another, "is the lean, eyeglassed sort, some- 
thing like Stevie's friend, only unhealthier looking. 
I should be frightfully clever and cynical, and make 
love to all the girls I met." 

"Ah, as long as you did that," said the others 
smiling, "Nelly would not be bored by you." 

"Quite right," said Nelly, smiling too. She 
noticed that these girls seemed to discuss men as 
much as or even more than did the girls she had 
hobnobbed with for brief periods in hotels and sea- 
side places, but they did not giggle about them nor 
did they recount experiences. She surmised that 
this was not solely because they had no experiences 
to recount. They did not, apparently, wish for 
adventures, and yet they did not show any hostility 
to the girls who had them. It seemed to her an 
extraordinary attitude, but she modelled herself 
unconsciously upon it. Her ingenuous flow of 
confidences ceased almost entirely. She had begun 
to be shy of the laughter she invariably provoked. 

"Were you ever in love, Nelly? " they had asked 
her one day. Surely a leading question. She 
settled herself to answer with some enjoyment. 

"Oh, I was." 

"Who was he? Wagheaslovelyas'Alphonso '?" 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 75 

"He was the handsomest man I have ever seen," 
said Nelly. "And he'd the loveliest way of glint- 
ing his eyes at you. He was one of Mother's 
beaux. His name was Roderigo. He was an 
Italian nobleman." 

They shrieked at her. 

"He was, he was; of course he was. How could 
he have been anything else ? " 

"I don't know what's funny about it. He was a 
Roman Count." 

"Did he wear white kid gloves? Did he try to 
abduct you ? This is Grand Opera ! " 

"He wore white gloves at the balls of course," 
said Nelly, "and he did try to abduct me, so there. 
We had to leave Cannes because of him." 

All Nelly's stories were true. That was what 
spoilt them. 

Sometimes Avalking along roads beside Steven 
Young she talked to him about her family and her 
way of living. 

"All this, you know," her eyes took in the woods 
on either side of them and Hilda and the Spink 
girls walking on ahead, "is so unlike anything 
I've done before. I don't feel it's real, somehow. 
I keep pretending to myself it's going on for ever." 

"What are you going to do, do you know, when 
Hilda's time is up ?" 

"I haven't decided yet. Maybe I'll try Panto. 
I had a good time in the Blackburn Panto two 
winters ago. But Mother didn't like it. She said 
I was lowering the family. But I don't see that it 
matters, does it, when nobody knows my name ? " 

"' Hayes ' isn't your name then?" 

"Oh, no," said Nelly heartily, but she did not 



76 THE CHORUS 

expand the negative into an explanation. "I had 
a good time in Panto. They were awfully decent 
to me — the Pros, I mean. I was only a kid, of 
course. I used to lead the marches. Maudie 
Maisie was our principal boy — you've seen her, 
haven't you? She is lovely, isn't she?" 

Steven had to confess that he had never seen the 
lady. 

"Oh, well, she isn't in London as much as she 
used to be, of course. Not since she got her sore 
leg. She showed it to me once in confidence. It 
simply wouldn't heal. I'd have done anything for 
Maudie. I liked Panto. I think I shall try it 
again. After all. Mother may not know anything 
about it. I may not hear from her." 

"Does she travel about a great deal then? " 

"Oh, rather. She's always on the move. That's 
for Jimmy's sake. Jimmy is my brother. I've got 
a photo of him somewhere I'll show you. She has 
to keep moving about, but she often gets tired of it. 
Some day she'll settle down and we'll all live quietly 
together, she says; but that's years off. She can't 
be alwavs letting me know where she is, can she," 
said Nelly,, combating the reproach that she felt to 
be in Steven's mind, "when, as she says, she often 
doesn't know where she'll be herself from one day 
to another? " 

She talked on about Jimmy. 

"When I came back from Dresden he remem- 
bered me all right. ' It's Dumps,' he said. That 
was what they called me then because I was always 
so depressed." She sparkled at the little sarcasm. 
"' It's Dumps,' he said, and came and caught right 
hold of me. Now that was wonderful, wasn't it. 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 77 

for he hadn't seen me for two years, and he was 
only three when I went away ? Mother wasn't best 
pleased when I turned up, either. There was an 
awful row. But I didn't care. I'd had enough of 
that ' superior middle class home to exchange Ger- 
man and English.' I wasn't going to be stranded 
like that again in a hurry. * Will you walk into my 
parlour? ' — not twice, I don't think." 

"Listen," said Steven; "hear that bird? That's 
a yellowhammer." 

She stopped obediently ; but her attention was 
not concentrated among the gorse bushes. She 
insisted upon completing her confidences. 

"I was a spectacle in those Dresden days. I'm 
not very grand now, but when I grew out of my 
clothes there I had to go on wearing them and 
wearing them till, for decency's sake, they took me 
to a cheap shop and fitted me out. I shall never 
forget those stockings — blue and white rings round 
them ! " she laughed. " It was rather decent of them 
really, I suppose." 

"It must have been a horrible time." 

"Oh, the first six months weren't half bad. Then 
it was all bowing and scraping about my sclibne 
Mamma; but when the remittances didn't come, 
and they had to clothe as well as feed me, and 
there seemed to be no end of it, old Frau Kopf 
used to come shaking her fist at me threatening 
blue murder to my Herr Papa. I don't blame her. 
It must have been beastly for her. Still, it was 
beastlier for me, and it wasn't my fault." 

"Still, it was all right in the end, I suppose?" 

"Oh yes. It was all right in the end. Frau 
Kopf's niece happened to go to Baden and saw 



78 THE CHORUS 

Mother walking in the gardens there. She tele- 
graphed, and old Frau Kopf pushed my hat on ; 
I remember how she snapped the elastic under my 
chin, and tore off to the station with me. Mother's 
astonishment was a picture. * That's not Eleanor,' 
she said, ' that little object.' But Jimmy ran over 
and caught me round the legs. ' It's Dumps,' he 
said; 'it's Dumps.' Mother was furious. It was 
a most inconvenient time for me to come, she said ; 
but then she always says that. She doesn't mean 
it." Nelly turned limpid eyes to her listener. "But 
wasn't it wonderful of Jimmy to remember me after 
two whole years? And he was only three when 
I went away." 

No complaining, no sense of injury. 
"You have seen the witches dancing, Rapunsel," 
thought Steven Young. 

"When Aunt Colquhoun dies, you see," Nelly 
was telling him, "Jimmy will have the property. 
Then we'll be all right. Father wants to get Jimmy, 
if he can, of course; but we won't let him do that. 
He's capable of anything. He got Jimmy once, 
and we had terrible times. But we stole him again, 
thank God ! — and we've been dodging with him ever 
since. If it wasn't for the money. Father said, he'd 
make an end of it and Mother could have Jimmy 
for good. You know he'd say Jimmy wasn't his 
son, just for spite, for he knows right well it's a 
lie, the blackguard." Nelly's cheeks and eyes 
blazed in swift excitement. "If Aunt Colquhoun 
knew everything she'd disinherit the whole pack of 
us. She always hated Mother, and she always 
hated me. Her side of the family is dark, you 
know." 



CONFESSIONS AND OPINIONS 79 

Steven Young could not help smiling. He could 
hardly believe, he said, that hair even so yellow as 
Nelly's could provoke such family disaster. 

"Ah, but you've never seen Mother," said Nelly. 

"Is she as beautiful as you ?" he asked. 

"She isn't as pretty as me," said Nelly, "but I 
shall never be such a fine 'W07nan. Joey Harrison 
says that, and he knows." 

The road before and behind them was deserted. 
Steven lifted the hard little hand and put a strangely 
reverent kiss on the back of it. 

Then Edward Armour came to stay with the 
Spinks and Steven began to spend his week-ends 
in London. 



CHAPTER IX 

MRS. HAMEL — ANTHONY HAMEL — NELLY HAYES IN 
THOUGHT 

"Tony," said Mrs. Hamel ; she was deciding 
what earrings to put on, and leaned peering, very 
intent upon her choice, above the gUtter of her 
dressing-table. "Tony — " the voice was elabor- 
ately indifferent — "how long do you suppose 
that acquaintance of Hilda Concannon's intends 
to stay ? " 

Anthony, his back to the room, was enjoying the 
wide view from the window. 

"My dear, I wish you wouldn't speak of the 
child like that." 

"Why not?" came the gentle drawl. "Why do 
you not want me to speak of her like that ? " 

"I don't think it matters, does it, how long she 
intends to stay? After all, she isn't staying with 
us." 

"No, of course she isn't staying with us." 

"Surely, Erica, you don't object to the child's 
being here? " 

"Object? Why should I? Why should I 
object, Tony ? " 

"I know she is in and out of the studio a great 
deal, but, Erica — "^he turned to his wife, confiden- 
tial suddenly and expansive — " I want her to be 

80 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 81 

here. Shall I tell you what I hope will happen ? 
I hope she will marry one of our young men. I 
dare say she will find the right one. She attracts 
them all. I should feel it a splendid thing. I 
loathe the thought of her slipping back into the 
sort of life she came from. That's what is in my 
mind." 

Mrs. Hamel was still intent upon her jewel- 
box. 

"That's what is in my mind, too." 

"Well, then ?" 

His voice had a glad ring in it. He loved to 
be at one with his Erica. 

"Do you think it quite /arr, Tony? " She spoke 
gravely. 

"Fair?" 

"wSurely we owe something to our guests?" 

Anthony stared at her. 

"You are thinking of Edward Armour, of course. 
He's such a boy, Tony. Don't you think he 
should have a chance to make a maturer choice ? 
Think if you had married the girl you wanted 
when you were twenty-one ! The girl out of the 
tobacconist's, wasn't it? Or was it the robust 
widow? His mother — " her voice trembled and 
paused for a moment — "it would grieve his mother 
terribly." 

Anthony had not been thinking of young 
Armour. In fact, his thought had not yet par- 
ticularized, and now that it did so, it provoked in 
him an involuntary irritation. 

"I don't see that we are bound to take care that 
none of our guests hurt the feelings of any of their 
relations. Really, Erica, you are ridiculous. I 
o 



82 THE CHORUS 

don't suppose Nelly would look at him." He felt 
quite angry. 

Mrs. Hamel, screwing a big pearl to her ear, 
smiled contemptuously into the mirror. 

"Nelly, as you call her, might do very much 
worse. The boy will be a baronet some day. But, 
as you say, it is not my business, of course. No 
doubt Edward is old enough to take care of him- 
self." She left it at that. She had started a new 
succession of ideas, however. 

Anthony found himself considering the girl in 
a new relationship. The vague, cloudy dreams of 
his generous nature were suddenly precipitated in 
concrete form before him. He had thought of 
Nelly as a secure and merry addition to his own 
circle, not as definitely the bride of one of his 
friends. The more conspicuous the worldly advan- 
tages of this match became to him, the more 
furiously he felt himself ranged against it. 

Teddie Armour ! The thought had never entered 
his head. Had they been much together, then ? 
Was he himself the only blind onlooker? The 
boy had been down for two week-ends, certainly, 
and he was staying with his cousins on the common 
now. They came in pretty often, all of them. 
They were a lively trio. He found he had hardly 
noticed the existence of the boy. He had seemed 
to Anthony "a nice young fellow" and "a bit of 
a dandy," and not worth talking to ; young men 
so seldom were. Anthony noticed with increasing 
frequency that he did not like young men. Nelly 
as a shipping magnate's wife ! The vision could 
not be summoned. Surely such a civilized person 
as Edward Armour, so correctly accoutred, so 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 88 

reared under glass, would wither in the fresh- 
blowing air of Nelly's indiscreetness. 

"But why should I detest the thought of it?" 
his mind continued. "How do I know how this 
boy and girl appear to one another ? They have, 
above all things, youth and vigour on their side. 
I must appear very old to them." (He was forty- 
three.) "I'm out of it. Keep remembering that ! " 
he addressed himself. "You are old and out of 
it. You have had your pleasures and the ecstasies 
of love. Why do you go on envying the joys of 
other people?" Time to let these things slip past 
him. He sighed heavily. 

Having thus for the moment adjusted himself to 
the undramatic role of audience, he began again 
to seek a means of meddling in the play. He 
pictured himself as a benign providence seeking 
a means to unite two starry destinies. He was 
going to try to like Edward Armour. "Love," 
he thought, "ennobles and beautifies." He was 
content to accept that. Nelly was already celestial. 
Perhaps if he tried hard enough so to think him, 
Teddie, spite of eyeglass, spats and wrist-watch, 
might appear celestial too. 

In such a mood of tenderness and sentimentality 
he began to make Nelly an engagement-ring, a 
jewel that should be of lyrical beauty in itself, and 
not merely a symbol of happiness like the otherwise 
ugly things of the jewellers' windows. A wedding- 
ring, he thought, rightly typifies a common bond, 
but an engagement — the hide-and-seek, the flash 
or steady glow of mind and temperament — there 
must be something individual to reveal in that. A 
ring on Nelly's finger should show that someone 



84 THE CHORUS 

knew how rare a being was she, and not only that 
the person who gave it to her had paid fifteen or 
forty pounds for it. 

He was eager to get to work. It would be so 
easy to make a thing characteristic of Nelly, and 
inevitably delightful. He would make a little green 
figure of the girl herself, he thought, a little golden- 
haired Rapunsel of a figure, but she should hold 
a lamp, a diamond, to symbolize her truth and 
her wise seizing of life, and all about her should 
twine the green of the wood, her refreshing 
savagery. Enamel, aquamarines, it would be a 
lovely little gem. Always when she drew off her 
glove then eyes would fasten upon it and people 
would wonder where she got "that." And she, 
too, would she not look at it often ? He would 
never slip quite away into the dim places of 
memory while she wore his ring. It would always 
be his touch, however light, upon her hand. 
Teddie Armour, unpleasantly flushed with victory, 
came into his mind. He luxuriated for a moment 
in the thought of Nelly's looking at the ring with 
eyes of unfathomable regret. He saw her, remem- 
bering the moment when he had slipped it upon 
her finger (he overlooked the fact that that would 
be Teddie's part), hushing her ecstatic cries, bid- 
ding her be happy, to fill her life with all she really 
cared about, to grasp what she wanted and enjoy 
it to the full. He pictured himself and herself 
together : the long look she would exchange with 
him, and all the "might have beens " and the "little 
mores" and the "little lesses " that the look would 
convey, and then his saying, "We who are in the 
shadows must see you revelling in the sun. It will 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 85 

set for you, too, some day." His own life, when 
his thoughts came dully back to it, appeared, at 
the moment, waste and arid to him. 

April came suddenly that year with a flood of 
blossoms. In the woods the tall trees, caught in 
a net of palest green, stood becalmed amid a sea 
of primroses. The brown leaf-covered earth of the 
Warren was starred with anemones and studded 
with the curled fronds of the bracken. At The 
Height a thousand daffodils flaunted their saffron. 
Every crocus held the shadow of a labouring bee. 
The peach and plum trees, crucified against the 
brick walls of the terraces, shook each its shower 
of petals. Wave after wave of warmth and per- 
fume sw^ept from the south. The whole world 
shone, a crystal bowl brimming with beauty. 
Blackbirds hidden in the orchard trilled and 
clamoured without cease, and the flagged cause- 
way joining house and studio became all at once 
wreathed and arched and intertwined with the 
young red leaves of the rose-stems. 

Below Elkins's there was a hazel-wood where 
a stream wandered. Thither in the mornings, 
when there was no place for her at the studio 
and Mrs. Elkins's eye pursued her idleness with 
too stern an inquiry, Nelly used to go. Here 
among the slender shafts of the trees was an idle- 
ness that justified her own. Peace would surround 
her as she sat on the steep mossy bank, her hands 
clasping her knees, her hair covering her with a 
yellow shawl, sheltered from the wind, unseen, 
unquestioned, so she could indulge her fancies and 
picture in tranquillity a future that seemed ever to 
be smiling beneath its cloak. In this place she 



86 THE CHORUS 

felt secure from the punishment-preparing record 
of fate. This was the Alsatia of her dreams. Here 
she felt happy and confident. Good luck, she 
believed, would come to her. It seemed as if, 
through all perilous seas of misfortune, it was 
coming to her, drawing ever nearer with a piled-up 
cargo of delightful things. The day of arrival 
was not fixed, but it was certain — certain as death. 
She had no doubt of the overwhelming splendour 
of the tidings. Sometimes they seemed almost too 
close upon her. She had decided that the great 
thing should happen the day she was grown up. 
That used to be a time remote to invisibility. Now 
it hid excitingly round any corner. 

Sometimes, when the gay company of week- 
enders had seemed most foreign to her, she wished 
a letter from her mother would be the beginning — 
a letter containing something more than the usual, 
though not, alas I regular, collection of crumpled 
bank-notes, stamps, and postal orders mended with 
gummed paper. She thought long of her mother 
as she sat there : of the big pale face with the 
crown of yellow hair, the white arms, the plump 
wrists and hands. Her mother always appeared 
in the same way in Nelly's memory : always 
reclining on a couch, or in a big chair with her 
feet upon another, always doing the same thing — 
threading ribbons into underclothing. With half- 
closed eyes the girl could see the smooth move- 
ments of the arms bare in the loose sleeves of the 
wrapper, and the frothy pile of nightgowns and 
chemises. Other parts of the scene might vary ; 
this one never did. Sometimes she seemed to be 
in a drab place that smelt of dust, but oftener she 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 87 

was in a big room with a curtained brass bedstead 
and an ottoman, two French windows, and a bal- 
cony outside, and one of her customary bouquets 
filling a stand in the corner. Perhaps they had 
once stayed together in a place like that. They 
had stayed in so many places. In the corner, too, 
would be Jimmy sitting on the floor with his bricks 
or a box of soldiers; Jimmy with the black head 
and scowling brows, their darling, their adored 
one, at whom the word of scorn should never be 
cast. He must be quite a big boy now, thought 
Nelly ; too big to care any more for the old games, 
perhaps. Oh, if only her mother would send for 
her! 

Then her thoughts turned to her father for a 
while and her one memory of him. That was of 
a bedroom, too, and she was sitting on the bed, a 
tiny, narrow bed under a sloping ceiling. She 
had to sit still lest she should bump her head, and 
she watched her father, with his back to her, brush- 
ing his hair before the glass. He brushed it until 
it shone, with two brushes at once, in what seemed 
a recklessly brilliant fashion. He had said to 
her, "I have stolen you for the day." She must 
have been a very little girl. Her feet on the low 
bed did not reach the floor. That was all she 
remembered. 

Then she would think of her mother again. "If 
only she would get tired of being so beautiful and 
would let me play the game instead ! " But her 
mother had said always, in those curious exclama- 
tory monologues that took the place of conversation 
between her and her little girl, " I shan't give up 
until I must," or "I want you to have as long as 



88 THE CHORUS 

you can." Nelly felt shut out from a whole world 
of glamour. "You're growing up too fast, dearie," 
with a sigh, or a violent "Merciful God! how fast 
you do grow ! " If only her mother would be 
content to step aside, to abdicate in her favour, 
and to say, "It is time we kept our bargain with 
Joey Harrison." Joey, after all, meant certainty. 

Nelly, however, did not think of him for long, 
for this glade of hers was dedicated to pleasant 
thoughts. She thought instead of falling in love, 
its wonder and its mystery. She heard again her 
own voice, a piping baby voice, asking a question. 
It had had some intimate connection with love at 
the time, she knew that. Two people had been 
standing on the hearthrug; they were immensely 
tall — they towered as people did in those days. 
One of them she supposed now to have been her 
mother. They were talking up there, and all the 
air seemed full of a heavy sweetness. One of them 
had said to the other, "Your eyes are the loveliest 
things in the world. They are black. Now they 
are pale sapphires." The other had said, "Yours 
are golden and brown. They have little flecks in 
them. Now they are looking wicked. I shall cover 
them up." Then Nelly, from somewhere near the 
floor, had asked, "And what colour are my eyes? " 
She had never lost the faith, quickened in her 
there, that love is full of secrecy and heavy 
sweetness. 

How could she expect to grasp happiness when 
what she desired was so remote and guarded from 
her ? Visioning it unattainable, her breast became 
suddenly choked with a passion of tears, but she 
did not yield to them. This place was for dreams 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 89 

that might never come true, but were worth dream- 
ing all the same. She sent her thoughts round 
about. If she could not storm the steep ambition 
of her wush, she could perhaps come to it in another 
way. 

She would think what it would be to be lifted 
in complete security out of the harsh uncertainties 
of her life. To be no longer aswing between being 
"flush" and being "stoney." To have a quiet 
husband and a cheque-book of her own. She 
pictured herself in a cloth dress coloured like a 
blackbird's egg and elaborate with pierced work 
and embroidery, in a pearl necklace and a hat with 
feathers in it, a grey fur coat, and a motor pal- 
pitating outside. She would come to leave her 
cards at The Height like that. Somehow it was 
always against her present background that she 
wished to reveal her glory. She caressed the idea 
of entering the lirelit hall, perfectly in keeping 
with it, at ease, in harmony. She would have 
come, she supposed, to leave cards on Mrs. Hamel. 
She hugged the picture of herself. For a moment, 
narrowing her eyes, she speculated as to how she 
might definitely attain it. She passed the young 
men who came down at the week-ends in review. 

There was Steven Young — a dear, but everyone 
said he had no money. Also she was not quite 
sure how he regarded her. He came and sat beside 
her often and looked at her oftener still, but he 
did not pay her compliments or give her things. 
He had only, when opportunity tempted, kissed 
the unalluring back of her hand. He might have 
kissed the palm. He was, in Nelly's opinion, in 
fact, a bit of a prig. 



90 THE CHORUS 

Ardent Keath, with the heavy machinery of his 
speeches (there was an undeniable creaking as of 
rust about some of them), she considered a "flat." 
Pandolefsky was not to be seriously thought of at 
all. Teddie Armour was undoubtedly "keen" on 
her, and she liked him, but somehow it "wouldn't 
wash." He was easy to talk to. He liked hearing 
about her theatrical experiences particularly. They 
attracted him more than she did herself. She felt 
quite "at home" with him, if such an expression, 
in Nelly's case, could represent feeling at ease, 

but She tried to see herself for a moment 

presented to his hostile "mamma," and behaving 
with great dignity; and then a vision rose before 
her of photographs of bride and bridegroom in 
the shiny ladies' papers. She laughed to herself. 
It was an alluring prospect. But Teddie Armour 
would no more think of proposing to her than of 
jumping over the moon — would he? She did not 
dwell upon the thought. She had a dearer dream. 
She pictured herself passing down a garden path 
trailing an exquisite white dress. (Nelly's taste in 
these matters was mature. Thirty seemed to her 
the ideal age for clothes.) She would be cutting 
roses, she thought, pink ones and white ones and 
the ones that are the colour of flesh ; or, it sug- 
gested a closer ownership, pulling the withered 
petals off as gardeners do. A flat basket, leather 
gauntlets on her hands ; it made her the very 
mistress of the place ! Somewhere in the garden 
someone was watching her; she would come upon 
him, perhaps, at the next turn of the path. She 
knew who it was. She closed her eyes. An ecstasy 
that was almost a sobbing mounted in her throat. 



MR. AND MRS. HAMEL AND NELLY 91 

She tried, by pressing her eyelids close together, 
to make his image leap to life before her. For the 
immeasurable fraction of a second he came ; then 
he was gone, not to be recaptured. She was 
dreaming, dreaming — ah ! impossible things. 

She tried to make her happiness more explicit, 
but it vanished from her. The garden became too 
like the garden on the hill behind her, and she 
too like a trespasser stolen within it. Besides, 
the thought would creep in like a reproach to her 
that Mrs. Hamel never walked in her garden. The 
thought of that aloof little lady was, indeed, always 
a splash of cold water to the dreamer. She 
struggled with the thought; she proved it un- 
reasonable, she vanquished it in battle. After all, 
she didn't envy the woman ; she didn't want to rob 
her, to oust her, to injure her in any way. How 
could she help loving "Tony"? Why, even in 
her mind to pronounce his Christian name sent a 
hot flush all over her. Why shouldn't she love 
him? She didn't ask anything in return. She 
didn't expect anything. She was only thinking 
rapturous things. She wasn't making plans. No 
power on earth would keep her from loving him, 
anyhow ; and who was Mrs. Hamel that she should 
play the dog in the manger? Nelly wasn't going 
to pretend to herself about it. "I love him, I love 
him, I love him," she breathed aloud. Those words 
were a defiance of all the world. She lifted lazy 
arms and stretched them with a thrilling gesture. 
After all, why shouldn't she love him ? If he 
didn't love her, where was the harm? She couldn't 
help wanting him to love her, and pretending that 
he did; but if she didn't try to make him, if she 



92 THE CHORUS 

didn't try a bit? If he just thought of her as a 
child or as a faithful dog ? A faithful dog ? (Her 
eyes filled with tears.) Confronted by this new 
humbleness, the reproachful thought slid quietly 
away. 

Nelly rose up on a wave of happiness. She took 
off her shoes and stockings and paddled in the 
stream. She made little dams of mossy stones 
and saw the water come pouring over them ; she 
wriggled her pink toes in the sand. Then she 
picked kingcups for the table at Elkins's. She 
felt, as she phrased it to herself, "young again." 

It was as if a fresh wind lifted her heart. To 
love, to pour out all she had in loving, and to ask 
for no return. Happiness spread wings within her. 

Fortified by good resolutions, she did for the 
first time that afternoon what she had long wanted 
to do : she waited for Tony at the little iron gate. 
He frequently left the car there on his homecomings 
and walked up through the garden, instead of 
circling it to the main entrance. 

He found Nelly at the first turn of the pathway 
standing quietly among flowering trees. The air 
was heavy with the scent of hawthorn. She was 
awaiting him with none of the inconsequence of 
chance. For a moment a prick of doubt disturbed 
and pleased him. Then she came to him and said 
with disillusioning frankness, " I saw you coming 
and I waited for you." It was quite simple. There 
was no hidden purpose in those clear eyes. Only 
their depths held a look he could not fathom, a 
soft fire, an intensity. 

They walked in step together to the studio. 



CHAPTER X 

HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 

Mrs. Hamel was not alone in her observation 
of the Armour Attachment. It had jumped too 
clearly to the experienced eyes of Miss Fitch, and 
from there the news had been transferred, in its 
successive stages, to the ears, no less experienced, 
of Mrs. Eckstein. There was no doubt about that 
at all ; the question they debated was whether they 
might look for an engagement and a marriage, or 
if the whole affair was a boy and girl sweethearting, 
without any likelihood of a sequel. There was 
an interesting little symposium in Mrs. Hamel's 
boudoir a fortnight after Teddie's first appearance 
at Otterbridge, when the ladies. Miss Fitch, Mrs. 
Eckstein, and Mrs. Hamel were ostensibly looking 
at pattern-books together, but as they turned the 
silken leaves to the murmured "That's pretty," "I 
don't much care for that," "How would it look over 
a dark lining?" and so on, a great many things 
unconnected with dress-making came to be dis- 
cussed as well. The physical nearness of the three 
heads, the isolation of the room in the sunny, 
spacious morning, drew them to an unguarded 
commentary upon the outer ring of their acquaint- 
ances, and then, by a process of gradual elimina- 
tion, the circle becoming smaller and smaller, they 

93 



94 THE CHORUS 

found themselves arrived at the heart of their 
discontent. 

To begin with, there was a small breach of good 
manners to complain about — it is only the beautiful 
idleness of ladies like these that keeps etiquette 
alive — and Mrs. Eckstein complained to Miss 
Fitch— 

"I asked your friend to dinner, Janet, and I 
think, as she knows me so little, she should have 
written after telephoning. I dare say she is busy, 
but it would have been more polite. I don't feel 
inclined to ask her again." 

And Miss Fitch would take her little revenge by 
asking, "Who was the lady sitting on the floor at 
your party, Marie? I didn't recollect her face." 

"My dear, I've no notion," Mrs. Eckstein de- 
fended herself. "Somebody brought her. The 
Thring-Smythes, I think. She made herself at 
home, didn't she? " 

"The new manner, my children, the new manner," 
sighed Mrs. Hamel. "What a pity we have to go 
on being polite. We cannot even tell these people 
what we think of them." 

"I think they must sometimes guess, dear," com- 
forted Miss Fitch. 

"Oh, by the way," cried Mrs. Eckstein, as one 
delivering good news, " I hear the Sopworth me- 
nage is anything but roses, roses all the way. Bertie 
Egerton was walking behind them the other day, 
and they rowed all down the Earl's Court Road. 
Bertie said it was better than a Bank Holiday, 
and they drowned the noise of the motor-'buses. 
Naturally, they were too absorbed to notice him. 
It must be very enthralling." 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 95 

"They do seem to make themselves unhappy," 
said Mrs. Hamel, trying to speak with mournful 
gravity, but unable to keep a smile from her lips. 

"Well, if I had announced in all the papers that 
my divorce was the re-beginning of the golden age, 
I should lock my door, my dear, before I began to 
quarrel," said Mrs. Eckstein. "Just for propriety's 
sake." 

"Oh, my dear Marie," cried Miss Fitch, "that 
is the last sake to appeal to. Don't you know the 
new version of Villiers de L'Isle Adam's philo- 
sophy : ' As for observing the proprieties, our 
servants can do that for us ' ? " 

"Oh, Janet, don't let life make you cynical," sup- 
plicated Mrs. Hamel earnestly; but a few minutes 
later she was cautioning Miss Fitch against sen- 
timentality. The conversation had closed in upon 
The Height itself, and the gleeful airiness as of 
spirits had been displaced by sensations of dislike 
and championship. 

"It makes me exceedingly uneasy," said Mrs. 
Hamel. "Lady Armour will be sure to blame me 
if anything happens." 

"But surely nothing will happen," Mrs. Eck- 
stein said, with assurance; "the boy talks too much 
about it." 

"What do his cousins think of it, Janet? " asked 
Mrs. Hamel. 

"Oh, they are highly amused." 

"Incomprehensible girls ! " 

"I wish we could persuade them to stop it," said 
Mrs. Hamel. 

"They've asked him to stay longer specially to 
be near Nelly," Miss Fitch told her. 



96 THE CHORUS 

" Well, I dare say it's better than going away and 
writing a lot of silly letters." 

"My dear Erica, you have a sensational mind." 

" My dear Janet, we are dealing with a sensational 
person. You've heard the family history ? " 

"Oh that! But one isn't expected to believe a 
word of it, is one ? " 

"In any case it shows you the sort of person you 
have to deal with." 

"Oh, I'm not going to deal with anyone. Erica," 
cried Miss Fitch. "I decline to be ferocious. And 
most men might do worse than marry Aphrodite 
Anadyomene." 

"She dresses quaintly, doesn't she?" said Mrs. 
Eckstein, bringing them back to the patterns again. 
It was disappointing to find Miss Fitch a waverer. 

"You oughtn't to be sentimental, Janet," Mrs. 
Hamel counselled her. " I don't wish to be unkind, 
I'm sure; but in cases like this one has to sym- 
pathize with someone, and I prefer to sympathize 
with my friend's son." 

"Doubtless if he knew he would appreciate it," 
said Miss Fitch dryly. They turned to the figured 
voiles. So Nelly had become "a case," had she? 
The girl's bright youthfulness rose to Miss Fitch's 
mind and she thought, "Here we are hobnobbing 
over her destiny like witches round a cauldron." 
She smiled at Mrs. Hamel and said, "Well, I 
ought to write some letters. Good-bye till lunch- 
time." 

Outside in the corridor she was strongly aware 
that she had joined the fell squadron of the enemy. 
She did not write letters. She went into the garden 
and stood watching the cloud-shadows pouring 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 9T 

across the hills, the tossing leaves, feeling the 
warm freshness of the sun, scenting the scattered 
perfumes. It came to her that Nelly was a part of 
all this. She could no more try to suppress and 
hide the girl than to order the prodigalities of 
Nature. 

Mrs. Eckstein came presently and joined her. 
They talked. 

" Edward Armour is a very good match, certainly." 

" What do you think of him personally ? " 

"He's a nice boy," said Mrs. Eckstein; "it's a 
pity he's so young." 

"That's the worst of it," said Miss Eitch; "if 
he proposes we'll know he's a darling, and if he's 
a darling it is a pity for him to be gobbled. But 
she must accept him." 

" He may not be serious at all, of course. He has 
a small mouth signifying caution ! " said i\Irs. 
Eckstein. 

" But a red jowl signifying danger," laughed Miss 
Fitch. 

"Of course, Janet, you know I hardly think I 
should like, if he were my son, for him to marry 
Nelly." 

"Ah, poor child," cried Miss Fitch, "what a 
wrong it is for her to have no one but herself to 
depend on. We've had life smoothed and made 
easy for us, a flight of even steps from our nurseries 
to our graves, and we never let go the bannisters ! 
We have relations and friends and people who knew 
our fathers, and good advice and good clothes, and 
good husbands, too, chosen for us whenever we 
permit it. Imagine what it would have been like 
at her age if we'd had no one to say ' you may ' and 

H 



98 THE CHORUS 

' you mayn't,' and flattery going up all round one 
like incense. It's appalling. I wonder she has 
kept her head at all. I should have made thirty 
fools of myself. And so would you." 

"I don't quite see what we can do, all the same, 
Janet," said Mrs. Eckstein difHdently. 

" I shall let her know that someone is on her 
side," said Miss Fitch. 

"But we don't even know which her side is," 
said ]\Irs. Eckstein. 

"Oh, nonsense! " said Miss Fitch. 

She determined to seek for allies. 

Hilda alone was unconscious of what was happen- 
ing. She knew that something was in the air, but 
its effect on her was simply to give her a feeling of 
being "out of it." She was surprised when a mes- 
sapfe reached her from Mrs. Hamel to come and take 
tea that afternoon. The lady had not shown much 
interest in her lately, and Hilda was glad that it 
should revive again. Mrs. Hamel was positively 
gushing. 

"Come and sit near me," she cried, "and have a 
real talk. Tell me all about your work and how 
you are getting on, and what horrid books you are 
reading." 

Hilda told her. When she chose to be amiable 
it was impossible not to like Mrs. Hamel. Pre- 
sently came the question — 

"And where is the beautiful Nelly? Does she 
still enjoy being here ? " 

"Oh yes, immensely ! She's over at the Spinks' 
now, practising putting with Teddie Armour." 

Mrs. Hamel put down her cup and assumed an 
intimately mysterious air. 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 99 

"What do you think of it, Hilda ? " 

"Think of what, Mrs. Hamel ? " 

" I mean do you think Edward Armour serious 
about Nelly ? " " 

"Serious? Do you mean in love with her ? I've 
never thought about it." 

She puckered her forehead. She was puzzled 
and a trifle vexed. She ought to have known of 
this before, she felt ; it was somehow rather humili- 
ating to have to be told what she should have seen 
for herself. All her old opinions and judgments 
began a shuffling readjustment in her mind. 

"I haven't thought about it," she said blankly. 

"Would you like to see them engaged?" sug- 
gested Mrs. Hamel. 

More dazzling revelation of her own stupidity ! 

"Engaged?" cried Hilda. "Oh, Mrs. Hamel! 
Who in their senses would want to marry Teddie 
Armour ? " 

" Nearly anyone in their senses, I should say," 
said Mrs. Hamel with asperity. 

"But he's so completely ordinary," protested 
Hilda. 

"He's an exceedingly nice young fellow," said 
]\Irs. Hamel, tight-lipped. 

"But to marry him ? " scoffed Hilda. 

"I certainly hope she will not marry him," said 
Mrs. Hamel. "It would ruin him for life." 

"It would ruin Nelly for life, too, I should 
think," said Hilda tiresomely. 

" I wish you would use your influence with her, 
Hilda. She looks up to you so much," tried Mrs. 
Hamel. 

"Oh, I don't think she does," said the provoking 



100 THE CHORUS 

young woman. Mrs. Hamel would willingly have 
shaken her. 

On the way home Hilda suddenly laughed. 
What had they been quarrelling about? They 
were entirely in agreement about the issue. It 
was Mrs. Hamel 's attitude towards Nelly — the 
"circus-rider " attitude — that had caused the trouble. 
Did Edward Armour want to marry Nelly ? How 
silly it all was, and they were both so young. Be- 
sides, Nelly said she was engaged already. She was 
hardly going to marry two people at once, was she ? 
It was all a muddle. Hilda stifled a feeling of 
resentment that grew inexplicably within her. Why 
had she not seen ? Why had she been out of it 
when everyone else at The Height had been gossip- 
ing for weeks. It was with difficulty that she pre- 
vented herself from feeling aggrieved. 

Meanwhile, Miss Fitch had not spent the after- 
noon in idleness. Ardent Keath, bidden to come 
and walk round the garden with her, was ap- 
proached successfully. To begin with he said — 

" I refuse to believe that these things are not 
best left to chance. Who will risk influencing the 
destiny of another soul ? " 

"You are a miserable coward," smiled Miss Fitch. 
"Standing still is as much an active verb as run- 
ning. I'm sure more harm has been done in this 
world by letting things drift than by meddling." 

"But what do you want me to do?" protested 
Ardent Keath. "You don't make human marriages 
by turning people loose in a paddock, more's the 
pity." 

"More isn't the pity," said Miss Fitch, "and I'm 
not asking you to do anything of the kind. I only 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 101 

want you not to make special plans for Nelly, not 
to walk with her, or ask her lo play golf, or read 
to her, or anything for a day or so." 

"I shall let Nelly — " he was a little shy with the 
name — "do just as she pleases." He was unpleas- 
antly surprised to find his attentions thus marked 
and catalogued. 

"Dear Ardent, don't you know that Nelly is the 
sort of girl that likes to do what other people 
want ? " 

He would not agree with her. All the same he 
left Nelly alone as she asked him. She had made 
him too self-conscious to find pleasure in anything 
else. 

Pursuing her policy of interference. Miss Fitch 
next morning, while the girls were still at breakfast, 
knocked at the Klkinses' door. It was Sunday, and 
the air had the subdued sweetness of the country 
vSabbath. Even the bees seemed to pursue their 
murmurous occupations without vigour. From over 
the hill came the pathetic sound of distant bells. 

"You darling, come in," the girls called to her. 
"Have some breakfast." They were fond of Miss 
Fitch, for she treated them as reasonable beings. 
She did not laugh at them and call them odd, or 
stop their confidences with "What strange things 
you girls do say ! " or "Where can you have learnt 
to think that?" She was good company herself, 
and seemed to expect them to be good company 
too. 

She settled herself in a chair and said, while they 
spread their marmalade, "I came down for a walk 
and to see you." 

"You're not joining the Church party? " 



102 THE CHORUS 

"No, I've done my duty in that connection often 
enough this year. Mrs. Hamel has plenty of re- 
cruits to-day without me. I left them buttoning- 
their gloves. Well, Hilda, how is everything 
going ? I haven't seen any of your work for ever 
so long." ^' ■ 

"There really hasn't been anything to show." 

"Why, I thought you were doing splendidly. 
Mr. Hamel always speaks as if you were going to 
do great things." 

(It was one of ^liss Fitch's social laws that 
compliments should be repeated.) 

"Does he?" said Hilda, becoming more cheerful 
immediately. "All the same, I seem to have 
stuck lately. I can't get anything finished. 
There's always a crowd in the studio. I flounder 
about, and no one has tijne to help me." 

"Wouldn't J\Ir. Pandolefsky be a help if Mr. 
Hamel's too busy?" 

"No, thank-you," said Hilda, grimacing. "I'd 
rather have the disease than that remedy. I ex- 
pect I'm only grousing. Practice is what I want, 
and I'm getting that. I've a lot of things on hand, 
but I know I'm doing them all wrong because 
they're giving me so much trouble. The right way 
is always the easy way— isn't it?" 

"Don't mind her," cried Nelly, "she's making 
lovely things really." 

"I'm spoiling them," said Hilda obstinately, "and 
I'm not getting anything done. There's a silver 
casket in low relief set with crystals— I've put the 
feet on four times if I've put them on once, and 
they still look rickety. And the coffee spoons will 
simply have to be melted ag^ain, and I've spent a 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 108 

week nearly on each of them." She described them. 
Each was to have a different bird in a branch for 
the handle and the bowls were to be smooth and 
brightly polished. But Miss Fitch had not come to 
Elkins's to talk about Hilda's work. 

"What are your plans for to-day?" she asked 
generally. 

"Oh, tennis, I suppose, with the Spinks." 

" Isn't Edward Armour staying with them now ?" 

Hilda looked hard at her — had the name cropped 
up with purposeful irrelevance? 

"Yes. Their cousin. Not a bad little beast." 

"A charming boy," said Miss Fitch emphatically. 
" What brings him down so often ? " 

"I suppose he likes coming," said Nelly, smiling. 

"I could suppose that for myself, dear child," 
said Miss Fitch, smiling too. " He'll be Sir Edward 
one fine day, and immensely rich. His mamma is 
very anxious to keep him out of mischief." 

Nelly's smile widened. 

Hilda wondered on which side Miss Fitch was 
pulling her invisible string — there seemed to be 
such a bunch of strings pulling at Nelly. She 
looked straight into Miss Fitch's eyes to indicate 
that she knew there was a game afoot, and said — 

"I should think Master Edward well able to take 
care of himself." vShe experienced a delightful 
flutter, as of one delivering a pass-word. She felt 
as if she had been admitted into a secret society, 
the freemasonry of grown-up women. 

"1 should think so, too," said Miss Fitch. 
"Teddie is really a man, not a mere child." 
(Where was she pulling?) "I wonder if he would 
be able to take care of anyone else? " 



104 THE CHORUS 

"I should not care to be the experiment," pulled 
Hilda. 

"I think you are wrong. I believe he'd be 
immensely kind to anyone he cared for. And 
he's rich and healthy, and has nice manners. I 
don't know what else anyone could want." 

" But he's so stodgy and tame, and afraid of doing 
anything extraordinary." 

"That's only his outside. He's probably much 
more interesting inside." She addressed Nelly 
point blank : "What do you think? " 

"I'm considering," said Nelly. "I like him, of 
course. He's taking me a walk this afternoon. 
He's going to show me the view from the Warren." 

"The view from the W^arren ? " cried Miss Fitch, 
with delighted raillery. "Is there some new feature 
in the landscape, then ? " 

But seeing that Nelly did not laugh with her, she 
added: "Of course, places differ altogether seeing 
them with different people. Even the Isles of 
Greece as T saw them, with a number of German 
ladies in cloth caps and plaid shawls, lacked 
glamour. Some people make the grass greener and 
the sky bluer than others, don't they? I don't 
mean the Post-Impressionists." 

Nelly smiled wisely. It was impossible to tell 
what she was thinking. 

Hilda continued the contest. 

"Do you think a man's being rich a good enough 
reason for marrying him ? " 

"I don't think it at all a bad one, if he's a nice 
man." 

"I think a marriage of that sort simply a 
tragedy," said Hilda sententiously. 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 105 

"For idealists like vou, yes; but not for every- 
one." 

"I thought a tragedy was a play people died in," 
said Nelly softly. 

"It's more often a reality people live in," pounced 
Miss Fitch. 

"But that's what I say," cried Hilda; "why do 
you advise, then " 

"My dear, T'm not advising. But if I were, I'd 
say that even a tragedy is better than nothing." 

She sat silent a moment, thinking, perhaps re- 
gretting; then she rose, shook hands with them 
brightly, and was gone. She congratulated herself 
that she had let Nelly know quite plainly that some- 
one was on her side. 

After lunch, while The Height was stewing in 
a warm silence, broken by the sound of an occa- 
sional paper-knife cutting the pages of a novel. Miss 
Fitch's restless spirit impelled her to wonder what 
Anthony was thinking. The thought made her sit 
upright and roll her eyes mischievously. Where 
was she likely to find him? A lucky instinct sent 
her towards the studio. She was struck anew with 
the handsomeness of him. There was surely no 
one in the world with quite so many perfections as 
Anthony. No wonder all women adored him. She 
would adore him herself if only she could rid herself 
of the analytic mood, the destructive mood, the 
search for the weak spot. vShe had not found An- 
thony's yet. That made him persistently interest- 
ing. And he was so splendid to look at, and so 
warm in his greeting. Evidently he had longed for 
someone to listen to him., and here was the fortunate 
hour. He was bitter and communicative. 



106 THE CHORUS 

He had come there to get away from the chatter. 
He felt just then that he loathed the sight and 
sound of nearly everybody. They were all talking 
motors in there and golf — his wife's friends — very 
decent people, but "They regard me as a freak, you 
know — the lion-faced genius sort of thing " — he 
wasn't in the mood for making conversation — he 
simply wanted to talk. lie confessed to a particular 
loathing for the sight and sound of young men. 
He wondered w^hether he had looked such a sickly 
fool when he was young, and whether love was 
always ridiculous except to the people who felt it. 
He complained that attainment was so much less 
interesting than promise, fulfilment than hope. 
"But that's been the lament since the beginning 
of the world." And then suddenly he was speaking 
of Nelly, "the one person I don't have to pose to. 
She doesn't care whether I'm a success or a failure. 
Upon my soul I don't believe she knows. It's 
restful, Janet. All the other girls that come here 
sooner or later fish out an autograph-book. When 
I show off she just says, ' You're a clever little 
chap ' — what an exquisite voice she has ! " 

"And here she is," thought Miss Fitch, "walking 
in a wood with Teddie Armour instead of staying 
in the studio with Anthony Hamel." She lit a 
sympathetic cigarette. Certainly it was hard to be 
deserted in one's old age. She quenched the satire 
in her eyes. 

He told her about the ring he was making. 

"It's been made clear to me in a hundred ways 
that an engagement is inevitable. I try to like the 
idea of it, but I've got used to seeing her about the 
house, and I can't help thinking all the time how 1 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 107 

shall miss her. T suppose a father feels much as 1 
when a daughter marries." 

"Doubtless," said Miss Fitch. 

"Erica doesn't like the idea of the marriaq-e. It 
was she who told me about it. I wanted to be 
enthusiastic, but I can't help disliking- it, too. I 
hate it. But old age is always envious of youth. 
Tell me I'm ridiculous, Janet." 

She did not tell him that. vShe had never liked 
him better. She was curious to see the ring, though. 
"Some day, some other day, when it's finished. It's 
the best thing I've ever done— but then I always 
think that ! " 

"Anthony, you're a wonderful creature." She 
left him in gayer spirits. She herself was intensely 
alert. She hoped with increasing ardour that Nelly 
would land her baronet. On her way back to the 
house she amused herself with imagining the effect 
of the engagement upon the individual members of 
their circle. 

She found Mrs. Hamel presiding in the drawing- 
room over a sedate company who seemed still 
to swoon under the spell of luncheon— Colonel 
and Mrs. Archibald, the Tolly-Keens and their 
daughter. Miss Fitch could not help thinking how 
much livelier a chatter Tony's poor disreputables 
would have been making. Even Mrs. Eckstein's 
tea-gown, brilliant as it was, could not dispel the 
atmospheric depression, and the cheerfullest sound 
in the room was a fly battering high up against 
the corner of a window-pane. Presently Ardent 
Keath came in, and after him the tea-cups. The 
prospect of cucumber sandwiches and maraschino 
cake stirred them all at last out of their lethargy. 



108 THE CHORUS 

"Where, I wonder, are Edward Armour and the 
Spink g-irls?" Mrs. Hamel inquired of the room. 
"I expect them to tea to-day." 

"Hilda Concannon was to have played tennis 
with them, I think," said Miss Fitch demurely, 
"and there was something- said about a walk, too, 
and the view from the Warren — oh, but it was 
Nelly Hayes who was to be shown that." 

"I don't see why they should be late, even so," 
said Mrs. Hamel with annoyance. She became 
frankly absent-minded while the Tolly-Keens and 
Colonel Archibald named the places within easy 
reach by motor of Otterbridge. 

"Charming run." "Delightful run." "Bad sur- 
face to the road." "Nasty corner at William- 
stowe." . . . "The car jumped and both lamps 
were in fragments — simply in smithereens — very 
dangerous, verv dangerous — of course I sacked the 
fella. ..." 

A great babble of voices in the hall and the 
Spink girls burst joyouslv upon them. 

"We got so hot playing tennis, and then we 
found it was most frightfully late. We've been 
scrambling up the hill as fast as we could, but we 
had to change first — to clean ourselves. But liter- 
all v, the grass was so wet . . . Oh, thank you 
... no I'll have cucumber . . . We are so 
ashamed of being late . . . Yes, I did get rather 
a bad one — frightfully slippery . . . They won the 
first and we won the last two sets. W^e'd have 
won them all, onlv Margery was so greedy at 
lunch . . . You can't play good tennis on a gorge 
of salmon mavonnaise, can you, Mr. Keath ? . . ." 
And so on, and so on. 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 109 

Mrs. Hamel's chill voice interrupted. "And 
where is your cousin Edward ? " 

"Oh, Teddie, I'd forgotten all about him I He 
was to have been here. Isn't he?" 

Miss Spink looked round the room as if he 
might be there and have escaped observation. 
Then she began to laugh. "But, of course ! This 
is tJie great day. He's showing Nelly Hayes the 
view from the Warren." 

Again that phrase. It seemed almost a con- 
certed plan prepared against her prejudices. Mrs. 
Hamel stiffened. 

A new arrival sounded from the hall. 

"Here's Teddie, here's Hippocrene," squeaked 
the youngest Miss Spink to Miss Fitch's private 
ear. "Watch him ! See him blush ! " 

"Quiet, dreadful child! " said Miss Fitch. 

The young man did blush, he was lamentably 
aware of his cousin's ruthless scrutiny. Suitable 
words of apology for his lateness came to his lips, 
however, as he greeted Mrs. Hamel; but once the 
stir of handshaking, introducing, accepting tea-cup 
and scone were over he was seen to sit on the edge 
of his chair in a rather miserjible silence. 

"Had a good walk, Teddie?" inquired Miss 
Margery Spink. 

"Yes, thanks. Had a good game?" asked 
Teddie. 

Miss Fitch and Mrs. Eckstein gave it up in 
despair and went for consolation to the library. 

" He doesn't look much like a happy bride- 
groom, Janet," said Mrs. Eckstein. 

"He does not," said Miss Fitch. 

The tea-party was dispersing. Colonel and Mrs. 



110 THE CHORUS 

Archibald wanted a little walk before supper. Miss 
Tolly-Keen was anxious to get upstairs and see how 
she looked with her hair done like Mrs. Eckstein's. 
The Spink girls had a message for the rectory. 

"Let Edward stay a little while," said Mrs. 
Hamel ; "I want to talk to him." 

Thus encouraged, Mr. and Mrs. Tolly-Keen took 
themselves off, too. Ardent Keath had seen a 
fatuous statement about the new composer, Savaloy, 
in the morning's paper, and was going to wTite a 
letter about it. At last Mrs. Hamel had Teddie to 
herself. 

Half closing her glass-green eyes, she prepared 
for the attack. 

" What have you been doing with yourself 
lately?" she said. "We haven't seen much of 
you." 

"Oh, loafing about, you know. Golf and tennis 
and that sort of thing." 

"I should think you'll be quite glad to get back 
to Cambridge." 

"I shan't be sorry." 

"When do you go?" 

"Twenty-fifth." 

" What have you been doing this afternoon ? " 

Mrs. Hamel cross-questioned unconcernedly. 

"I've been for a walk. Charmingly pretty 
country it is down here." 

" For a walk. All alone ? " 

Confound the woman ! 

"No, I wasn't alone. Miss Hayes was kind 
enough to come with me." 

That settled her. He could hardly have bettered 
that. But no. 



HILDA BEGINS TO GROW UP 111 

"Miss Hayes? You know her well then." 

"Pretty well, yes." 

"Edward," Mrs. Hamel became appealing; "I 
know your mother very well. Won't you tell 
me ? " 

"There isn't anything to tell, Mrs. Hamel." 

" You are not engaged to anyone ? " 

"She wouldn't have me." 

His voice choked a little. He was very miserable. 

"That is hard lines," said Mrs. Hamel, satis- 
faction sending a pretty flush to her cheeks. "But 
I can't help reminding you that you are very 
young. Too young, dear Edward, to think of such 
things." 

Edward boiled. "Does she think me a baby?" 
He was thankful to say good-bye. 

In the hall he found ^liss Fitch. She hailed him 
cheerily. 

"So she wouldn't have you ? " 

" How do you know ? " 

"I know from your face. I'm sorry." 

They shook hands. "She's the sweetest — the 
most beautiful " 

"Don't give up hope," said Miss Fitch. 

" I shall never care for anyone else," said the 
dejected young man. 

"Oh yes, you will. You will, indeed. But, 
Teddie " — did all the women think they'd a right 
now to Christian-name him? — "don't count on all 
the girls refusing you." And what did she mean 
by that? 

He returned to the Spinks. 

Nelly Hayes had gone up in the general estima- 
tion. The girl aimed high. Questioned by the 



112 THE CHORUS 

inexorable Miss Fitch that evening, she Hfted her 
head proudly. 

"I am not a cradle-snatcher," she said. 

"My dear child, you are far nearer the cradle 
than he is." 

"Ah, no," said Nellie gravely. 



CHAPTER XI 

WEEPING AND KISSING 

Edward Armour's departure took for Nelly the 
immediate interest out of life. It gave her the 
feeling- of dullness that the return from a holiday 
to familiar surroundings gives. It was grey- 
ness and rain on the heels of blue summer. His 
presence and the excitement his interest in her 
had aroused in other people had for a while 
dimmed that sense of the future which made all 
her doings seem unreal and the life that she was 
living less like her own existence than that of a 
stranger. Now there was nothing to do but to 
walk alone or read alone — a thing she never enjoyed 
— to laugh with the Spink girls when the object 
of laughter had become retrospective, to face Pan- 
dolefsky's scowls in the studio, and always to be 
unnecessary and in the way. Anthony had gone, 
too. That was the real misfortune of the moment, 
and without him the precincts of The Height 
seemed more than ever hostile to her. Hilda, 
rejoicing when a week-end was past, was filling 
the quiet days with a fury of work. Only Nelly's 
occupation was gone. 

Walking sadly in the grass at the edge of the 
road, a solitary figure timid of the solitude, or 
sitting chin on hand in the hazel wood, she would 
I 113 



114 THE CHORUS 

have to remind herself again and again, "This is 
my Ufe ; I am hving now, not to-morrow or the 
day after that." And then the agonizing question, 
" This my Hfe ? " What was going to happen to 
her? Where should she go when Hilda was ready 
to leave Otterbridge ? Would she be packing her 
box and going away for ever, and no memory after 
her, just "that's over," like a footprint on wet 
sand ? She wanted all these people with their busy 
lives to have some thought of her. They all seemed 
solid, somehow, in a way she was not. Was it their 
houses that established them, she wondered, or 
simply their contentment? Perhaps that was it. 
^^"hen she had gone away would any of them ask 
her to come back, or talk of her at all ? She 
thought they would not. She wished she did not 
think. She realized, with an aching heart, that it 
was nearly May, that the time toward which she 
had stretched eager hands a month before was 
upon her. vSoon it would be past her, and no 
load of wonder with it, no miracle, no whirlwind 
of amazing joy. The future had just slid into the 
present dulled and tarnished. She wished she could 
have found a cave somewhere and crawled into it 
and put her face into her arms and slept until a 
gayer morning dawned. She realized how deadly 
her disappointment was. The achievement of 
Edward Armour had for the time amused her out 
of her essential thoughts and longings. Now there 
was a blankness until Anthony came back. A 
dread shivered into life before her that there would 
be nothing even then. She steadied herself to 
contemplate nothingness. Why had she ever ex- 
pected anything else, and what was the else that 



WEEPING AND KISSING 115 

she had expected? What fantastic world had she 
been living in where every meeting with him filled 
her soul with an ecstasy of longing and her brain 
with a myriad crude, unrealizable hopes? Was it 
possible to love him so much and yet at each 
meeting to be no closer to him than that first time, 

when he had said ? She remembered all the 

things that he had said. Yes, it was possible. 
She could not accustom herself to the coldness of 
reality. "He doesn't love me. He doesn't love 
me. He will never love me," she kept repeating; 
but did she let her mind wander from the reiterated 
lament for a moment, her eyes became filled at 
once with visions of herself walking hand in hand 
with him or sleeping against his breast. "I would 
die for you, Tony," her brain would say instead; 
"I would die for you." Try as she might that 
image defeated any knowledge. She found herself 
thinking, as she had thought every day for two 
months past, "The next time I see him — it will 
happen the next time," and she pictured how it 
would begin, and invented words of love for him 
and tried to hear his voice saying them, and to 
feel the warmth of his arms about her shoulders. 
And when she found no consolation in this pre- 
tending, she would wonder if it was her own fault 
that she was so far unsatisfied ; and she would 
remember some dim precept of her mother's that 
there was always a moment in any conversation 
with a man that a woman could make him want 
to kiss her, and she would wonder if she had been 
particularly stupid in her dealings with him, and 
she would try to remember all the talks they had 
had, sentence after sentence, and say to herself : 



116 THE CHORUS 

"There — if I had turned to him quickly then — if I 

had touched his sleeve then " And she reminded 

herself that she had hardly seen him alone. 

Then she would feel that she was only hood- 
winking herself, and, worse still, that she was being- 
gross, and she would cover her eyes with her 
hands and begin the lament again: "He doesn't 
love me. He will never love me," and then, small 
comfort to her vanity: "And I haven't tried to 
make him. I haven't tried and I ivon't try." 

After that came the question, "But if I did try? " 
and she would find herself puckering her mouth 
to meet the empty air, and all the sweet insanities 
rising in her brain. And so on round and round. 

"Mr. Hamel is back," Hilda said to her a few 
days later. "He's been up in Cumberland; he's 
been " 

But Nelly could not hear the rest. Her ears 
w^ere deafened with the beating of her heart. Every 
day she had waited for that news; it seemed as if 
she had waited for years. The greatness of her 
gladness paralysed her. She sent an even little 
voice to suppose him in "great form." And a 
mouse-like "yes" to Hilda's: "I'm jolly glad he's 
back. The studio seems dead when he's away. 
He's such a darling." If only her thoughts could 
leap free and unashamed into words. 

Fighting her longing, she did not go to the 
studio next day. She told herself that she dared 
not go. She felt too desperate, too headlong. 
Something she did not understand seemed burst- 
ing its bonds within her. She felt as if another 
disappointment would send her mad. She found 
herself wringing her hands and exclaiming aloud 



WEEPING AND KISSING 117 

as she walked in the woods. She had a horrible 
certainty that she was about to stake all she had and 
lose, and yet that she would not be able to help 
staking. It was nightmarish. She prayed that 
they might all float on as they were. That nothing 
should happen, nothing, nothing. She felt she 
could not grasp her joy if it were offered to her. 
She prayed hysterically for death. 

Hilda asked her again the next day : "Aren't you 
coming up to the studio this afternoon ? " 

"Oh, I should only be in the way. I'm in a 
bad mood." 

"Well, come and play tennis with the Spinks, 
then. I'm going." 

"Perhaps I will, if I feel lively. But there are 
four of you, anyway. Don't wait for me." 

"Just as you like," said Hilda. 

She was not sorry to be sometimes without her 
little friend. 

Nelly spent the day in solitude. She hated her- 
self for her decision. She railed at herself for it; 
but she made no effort to go. "I'm not going," 
she kept saying; "I'm going to sit quite still and 
let God do what He likes with me." The afternoon 
passed, passed, passed. 

And then suddenly she had leapt in trembling 
eagerness to her feet. " If I hurry," she kept 
repeating, "if I hurry I shall be in time." She 
did not wait to put on a hat. She was amazed at 
her wild haste. She stumbled as she walked. 
"Don't be silly," she told herself; "you fool, 
don't be so silly. There's nothing to cry about. 
If you don't find her at the studio she'll be at the 
Spinks'. You can't miss her." And underneath 



118 THE CHORUS 

all the time she heard another voice warning; her, 
warning- her with an irritating cocksureness : " He 
won't be there. The studio will be shut. Take it 
calmly. He won't be there." 

The afternoon was warm and golden. The 
Height seemed deserted. Nelly closed the little 
gate with an almost convulsive secrecy. She was 
instantly responsive to the garden's mood. Some- 
where one of the lawns was being mowed. The 
rattle and hush of the machine came desolate as 
waves on a stony beach. There was no other 
sound. Sadness uncontrollable swept over her. A 
sense of failure, of opportunity offered and rejected. 
For the first time she reproached herself for refusing- 
Edward Armour. There was the good thing that 
had been in store for her. She would never have 
such a chance again. That would have broken the 
chain of her old life for ever. That would have 
meant wings and glorious possibilities. Never 
again might she choose to be lucky. She would 
never have a pearl necklace now. That chance did 
not come twice to girls like her. ^Mlat a fool she 
had been ! Good luck had been thrown into her 
lap and she had not had the wit to recognize it. 
Oh, why had she fallen in love? "Never in love; 
never in love," her mother's voice came back to 
her; "that ruins everything." She had meant to 
be so different from her mother, so secure, so 
happy. "I've suffered and I know," came back 
the voice. Wasn't her mother's suffering enough 
for both of them ? She believed, she knew, and 
yet she had behaved like this. She had felt the 
bird of fortune nestling in her hand and she had 
let it fly. She had let it fly and she could not 



WEEPING AND KISSING 119 

call it back again. "If only — if only " But 

what was done was done. There was no changing 
it. Here was the end of the path and the studio 
door, and emptiness on the other side. Oh, she 
had done with hoping ! That she had learned, at 
any rate. The door was ajar. 

With what seemed a physical effort she crushed 
down every emotion of hope, of grief, of rapture 
in her breast; she became numb. Then she caught 
sight of Tony. 

A tall man in a white jersey, standing near a 
stove. Why should all the heavenly choirs start 
singing? What glorious harmony should build 
itself note on note from his thick hair, his pale, 
determined mouth, the balance of his figure in its 
passive strength, the peaty smell of the rough coat 
on the wall, the smell of tobacco? She adored 
him. It seemed to her at that moment as if she 
pressed him, small and exquisitely tender, into the 
very centre of her heart. 

Then she heard her own slow voice saying, as 
it always said, "May I come in?" 

At the familiar sound he turned and let his eyes 
dwell on her. "So you've come at last," he said. 

They stood looking at one another as if their 
glances had bound them together. Then he was 
coming very gravely to where she stood swayed 
towards him upon the topmost step ; he had made 
an inarticulate sound, and his hands had caught 
her beneath the armpits and he had lifted her down 
the steps and crushed her against his body, and 
her ears were filled with a deafness as of rushing 
water, and her mouth was hurting with the insist- 
ence of his kiss. 



120 THE CHORUS 

"It has happened, it has happened, it has hap- 
pened," came into her brain out of the blackness; 
and then she opened her eyes and found Tony 
standing before her, stooping a little, gripping 
both her hands, looking intently into her face, 
saying — 

"Nelly, my darling, Nelly, is it all right?" 

"Yes, Tony, yes, of course it is," she could 
scarcely articulate. She was pitifully aware that 
she was going to cry. 

"What is it, Nelly, what is it?" 

"Nothing, only " The tears brimmed over. 

"Oh, my darling — " he was holding her again — 
"I have made my darling cry." His mouth caught 
hers and stilled its quivering. "My little sweet- 
heart that I have made so unhappy." 

"Oh, Tony, I'm not unhappy. It's because I am 
so gla-ad." She divided the word into two quaint 
syllables. She was pulling out her handkerchief. 

"Forgive me, my precious one, forgive me. I've 
been a brute to you." 

"Oh, Tony, you have made me so happy." She 
was dabbing her eyes with her grubby ball of a 
handkerchief. "I'm not crying now. It was only 
that you startled me." She was smiling, but the 
tears threatened to overflow again. 

"I've tired my darling; she must come and sit 
here and rest." He put her into the big chair 
and knelt beside her. 

"My Nelly, can you ever, ever forgive me?" 

"There's nothing, simply nothing, to forgive, 
Tony." 

She tried to tell him. She felt a swift hatred 
for that word. 



WEEPING AND KISSING 121 

"I've behaved like a brute, like a devil." 

She said, "If you speak like that, Tony, I shall 
go away and never come back again." 

He put his head against her shoulder. "You 
must not do that," he said. "Do you love me, 
Nelly?" 

She gave him her mouth. 

It was very quiet in the studio. The level beams 
of the sun seemed to share the long softness and 
rapture. 

"Do you love me, Nelly?" Would she ever tire 
of answering that question ? 

Presently the first wildness of his passion began 
to abate. He put repentant lips upon her hair. 
"Child, this ought never to have happened. I 
ought not to have let it happen." 

She held his hand against her cheek. 

" Dearest, you couldn't help it. You didn't know, 
my Tony." 

*'I could have helped it. I knew the minute I 
heard your voice. Do 3'ou hate me, Nelly?" 

Hate him? Her sensuous arms went round his 
neck again. 

"Do 3'ou blame me very much, Nelly?" 

"Tony, if it's anyone's fault it's mine. I couldn't 
help wanting you, Tony." 

"You angel!" 

"If there's anyone to forgive it's me." 

" My child, my child ! " He put her smooth 
palms upon his eyes. "What are we to do, my 
Nelly?" 

"Dear Tony, you are worrying." 

"Oh, Nelly, I have made things hideous for 
you." 



122 THE CHORUS 

"You have made ihem — oh, my Tony, more 
lovely than I could have dreamed." 

"But what are we to do, my beloved child, what 
are we to do now? I've behaved most caddishly 
to vou." 

She took her hands from his eyes and looked 
earnestly into them. 

"Tony," she said in a husky little voice, "I shall 
be angry if you talk like that. What we've done 
can't be helped. We'll just not think about it. 
It'll be my secret. My lovely, wonderful secret. 
We'll just go on as if nothing had happened. 
Remember, Tony, you must keep my secret." 

"Ah, but will we be able to keep it?" he mur- 
mured, leaning close upon her again. 

"Yes, indeed we will. And, to begin with, I'm 
going to make the tea." 

He let her unclasp his arms and stand up. She 
smiled at him with a dancing, dewy brightness. 

She lit the spirit-lamp and began to get out the 
cups. They jingled noisily in her hands. 

"Absurd!" she said, still smiling. "See how 
shaky my hands are ! " 

She was again enfolded. "Tell me you forgive 
me," said Tony. 

"Tony, you promised " 

"No,'l didn't." 

She resigned herself. 

"The kettle will boil over, Boss," she warned 
him. 

"I don't care if it does. I want to talk to you. 
I want to ask you a thousand things. Why have 
you neglected me lately ? " 

"I haven't. Boss, I haven't, trulv." 



WEEPING AND KISSINCx 123 

"Well, why didn't you come here yesterday and 
the day before? Answer, JMadam." 

"isn't to-day better?" 

She received her answer — 

"How can a nice child like you care for an old 
fellow like me ? " 

"I don't think I am a child, Tony." 

"Yes, you are." 

"Well, I don't think you're an old fellow, 
then." 

"That's better. How old are you, Nellikins?" 

" I'm sixteen, Boss." 

"I'm seventeen, then." 

"You're a very bif^ boy for your age " 

The kettle boiled furiously, and he allowed her 
to make the tea. 

" When did you begin to care for me, Nelly ? " 

How delightful it was — a topic that could never 
be discussed too fully ! 

"From the first moment I saw you, Tony ! " 

"Why didn't you tell me, then?" 

"What a silly question, Boss! When did you 
know you cared for me ? " 

"When I heard your blessed voice at the door, 
Nelly. And yet, do you know, darling, I think 
I've always loved you? You made me very 
miserable lately ; do you know that ? " 

"Miserable? I?" 

"Yes, you, indeed. I thought you liked someone 
else. Why did you make everyone think you would 
marry Edward Armour ? " 

"Oh, poor Teddie ! " She gave a small laugh. 
''Did you feel really sorry about that?" 

" I felt wretched — and I didn't know whv ! I 



124 THE CHORUS 

made sure you would marry him. I even made 
you an engagement-ring." 

"You didn't, Boss." 

"My Nelly, I did." 

He found it and showed it to her. The little 
green gems twinkled on his palm. 

"It's not quite finished. That's the finger it 
goes on. Now remember you are engaged to 
me. 

Was he flirting — or had he simply forgotten ? 
She stole a glance at him. Well, she would forget, 
too. 

"It's the prettiest thing I've ever seen. It was 
lovely of you to make it for me." 

"Is she like you at all, do you think? I meant 
her to be." 

She raised her hand and kissed the tiny figure. 

"She's far nicer than me," said Nelly, "because 
you made her." 

"Nelly, you're an idolator." 

"Tony, I thought we were to go on just as 
usual," she said, making an unwilling effort to free 
herself. 

"So we are, darling." 

He opened his arms. She slipped away to the 
tea-table. 

"H-O-T " she began in her old way. 

That was too much. He was forced to follow 
her over. He stroked the yellow hair. 

"May I?" he said. "I've always wanted to. 
Was it hateful of me ? " 

He knew the answer to that question. Her 
perfect happiness lulled and vanquished him. 
They would forget all this and go on as if nothing 



WEEPING AND KISSING 125 

had happened — to-morrow; but now he lifted the 
heavy hair and kissed the white nape of her neck. 

"Tony ! " she implored him. 

"Beloved, I am cruel to you." 

In the end they did have tea together, Nelly 
sitting on a low stool at his side. Her youth had 
invested him. Me wanted to romp and shout. The 
solemnity of passion was over. He behaved 
absurdly ; he made her with eyes shut play trust 
and paid for with the biscuits, he drank out of her 
iSt cup, he kissed her ears until she cried for mercy. 

A distant clock's chiming dropped them back to 
earth. 

"Time for me to go," said Nelly, steadying her 
voice. 

"I'll come with you." 

"Better not." 

"Perhaps better not." 

She tried to smooth her hair at the glass. 

" I shall see you to-morrow ? " 

"To-morrow for sure." 

"Good-bye then, Nelly." 

"Good-bye, dearest Tony." 

He held her at arms' length, surveying her 
beauty, before he kissed her. 

"You're sure you forgive me?" 

"Not if you talk in that horrid way." 

"I haven't spoilt everything?" 

"You've made everything perfect." 

He held her close again. "Good-bye, my 
darling." 

She was going. 

"I say," She came back. "I shall be expecting 
you." 



126 THE CHORUS 

"Of course you will." 

"One more, then." 

"The last." 

The last and the last and the very last ; and — 
"Oh, Nelly, I think I'd better keep that stupid ring 
for you. There's something more to be done to it — 
and besides " 

"Tony, I'd forgotten it. How dreadful of me." 

She drew the tell-tale jewel from her finger. 

"We'll find somewhere that 3-ou can wear it, 
beloved," he promised her. They separated. 

And now she was flying, racing, running down 
the hill to Elkins's. Joy, mounting upon tumul- 
tuous wings, nearly choked her. "It has happened. 
It has happened." Nothing could unhappen it 
again. The bells pealed and rioted; the seventh 
heaven had been reached. 



CHAPTER XII 

INEVITABLE 

Nelly awoke next morning with a puzzled feel- 
ing tliat she had lost something. With her second 
yawn she realized \\ hat it was : she had lost her 
longing. Beyond the utmost pinnacle of joy her 
mind had made for itself a vague dark background. 
It did not trouble to descry other peaks, other steep 
and dangerous places in the long vista of succeed- 
ing days. It had distinguished one possible event 
and set it high as a landmark. It had forgotten that 
any other day nmst follow the crowned day in the 
procession. 

A dreamless night brought her back to a sensual 
reminiscence of Tony's arms, and then to that 
sense of something gone. The event she had 
longed for had happened — could she ever want 
anything so much again ?■ — and it was already a 
memory. Anthony's love might still be before her, 
a foreign kingdom to explore, but the thing that 
had filled her thoughts, the great moment of revela- 
tion, the first kiss, were over. Her sense of empti- 
ness almost made her forget that she was happy, 
and of course she was happy. Resolute humming 
while she dressed began to restore that impression ; 
smiling lips, eyes opened wide in sudden sparkles, 
gave Hilda the same tidings of light-heartedness ; 
and by this double deception a solid three-dimen- 

127 



128 THE CHORUS 

sion illusion was reared up, strengthened by every 
fresh glance that rested on her, so like the real 
thing that only the most weasel-like insinuations 
of the mind could have detected its falsity. 

" How's the world ? " she cried, popping her head 
into Hilda's room. She felt a tremendous warmth 
of affection for Hilda, for Mrs. Elkins, for the 
kitten, for the noisy stairs. Her heart embraced 
all the people she had met, the woods, the skies, 
the month of May — everything that had helped to 
give her the arms of her dearest. She repeated to 
herself again and again, " I have got what I wanted, 
I have got what I wanted," until her responsive 
breast was aflame with triumph. She went about 
all day buoyed up with the knowledge of Tony's 
love. She believed, as she lay and gazed at the 
lacquer of summer leaves upon blue sky, that she 
did not need him ever to kiss her again. Their 
love was perfect and a fact without any physical 
expression. She could repeat the rapture of those 
lirst kisses in every sensitive fibre of her body. She 
meant that they should go about in the old way 
as if nothing had happened, that she should see 
him at tea-time and feel his eyes desire her, and 
some occult means of expression should convey that 
she adored him — that was all. She was too young 
for her ardour to need the fuel of caresses. She 
was radiantly contented. Her life sang in harmony 
with her. 

All the same she felt strangely shy before her 
next meeting with Anthony. She felt that when 
he looked at her she must hide her face in her 
hands as children do, visibly expressing the desire 
to escape which agitated her soul. "How on 



INEVITABLE 129 

earth shall I ever get through it ? " she kept 
asking herself. She was in acute fear of openly 
disgracing herself, of displaying an emotion con- 
temptible and unlovely; it was the knowledge that 
Hilda and others would be there that finally braced 
her. 

As she drew nearer to the studio her nervousness 
disappeared. She found herself looking at the 
flowers with an absent-minded absorption that shut 
away her secret alarms ; the May flower-beds were 
a blazing profusion. She could almost have vowed 
herself indififerent when at last the moment for the 
question, "May I come in?" had arrived. 

There it all was. Hilda in her blue workman's 
blouse, the afternoon sun, the pale walls, the smell 
of matting, the big chair with its cushions smooth 
and unrumpled, and Tony at his table in the 
window. Yesterday might have been only a dream. 
She drew a quick breath. 

"How goes it?" she called lightly, to let him 
know that all was well with her. 

He lifted his head and drew the corners of his 
mouth back slightly, as if he perceived a something 
grimly humorous in the situation, before he said, 
"Come along." 

She realized intensely as she stood on the step 
that she wanted him to lift her down, as he had 
done yesterday. Then she perceived that he was 
intent above his table, just as she, a few minutes 
before, had been intent above the flower-beds. He 
was steadying himself. 

That sign of weakness similar to her own filled 
her with a wave of tenderness. She began to 
talk gaily and excitedly ; she brought forward a 

K 



180 THE CHORUS 

troop of unusual slang expressions, she made the 
silliest jokes with a feeling of absolute heroism. 

After a moment or two Anthony's voice joined in 
the laughter. The difficult corner was past. 

Over the teacups Nelly regaled them with 
snatches of ancient street songs. They felt them- 
selves to be golden company. Hilda was enchanted 
with Nelly again. This was the old quality that 
she expected in her, the irresponsible quality that 
had charmed in the appalling Bloomsbury days 
when any ordinary mortal would have been looking 
glum. Then it had been the difficulty of her 
situation that had conjured a bold defiance ; now, 
had Hilda known it, the cascades of laughter were 
for difficulty again. Anthony's uproarious laugh 
kept ringing out. He had dreaded this hour. He 
was amazed and delighted at the ease of it. 

"O Jerusalem, they made me one of the family ! 
O Jerusalem, let them do as they like with me ! '' 

sang Nelly. Life seemed clear as water. 

Next day brought visitors to The Height and 
not a glimpse of Tony. For Sunday Hilda had 
arranged a picnic on the river with the Spink girls. 
They spent the whole day strolling beneath the 
willows, the evening playing bridge, while Nelly 
lay in the bow and let the cold stream flow against 
her wrist. She found the fever she had fancied 
stilled rising in her veins again. She was shaken 
with gusts of anger. Would she never see Anthony 
for a second alone ? How could he waste his time 
with all those hateful people ? Her sense of baffle- 
ment translated itself for the moment into anger 
with him. She began to pretend that he had only 
been playing with her. She repeated savagely 



INEVITABLE 181 

many limes, "Well, / don't care either, then." She 
wanted to bite herself in her passion. Yet none 
of the other girls guessed the blank rage that was 
tearing her. She was outwardly listless and 
dreamy. She showed no tremor of her irritation. 

Monday, and the thought of seeing him, brought 
back the old seethe of longing, and as she entered 
the studio her brows drew together in a sullen 
scowl. Why didn't he break down all the barriers 
that restrained them ? It was for him to do it. 
The impossibility of even a private word was a 
strain almost past enduring. He was strangely 
quiet working at his table. She went and stood 
beside him. She had an unaccountable impulse to 
yell obscene abuse into his ear. Hilda crossed the 
studio to lift a copper plate out of the cleaning 
bowl. At that instant Nelly's hand was gripped 
with a strength that nearly forced a shriek from 
her, and Tony's voice gasped, "Nell!" She 
realized then that he was enduring the same tor- 
ments as herself. It comforted her while her body 
became still more restless. They both looked with 
morose eyes at the unconscious Hilda. It was 
strange that she, so capable, brisk and pleasant, 
should be turning their love into a devouring 
flame. 

Chance showed no likelihood of favouring them. 
Anthony's time at The Height had been spent 
in too definite a routine for him to vary his occupa- 
tions without causing remark. Nelly, though 
wandering over half the countryside every morning, 
must linger in the woods alone ; and the evenings 
which he might have spent nominally hard at work 
in the studio, Nelly must spend in company with 



132 THE CHORUS 

Hilda at Elkins's as she had hitherto done. Acci- 
dent had thrown them into one another's arms; 
accident now determined to keep them apart. By 
the irony of fate they were forced to keep their 
good resolution, and as circumstances evolved the 
triumph of the conventional, Anthony, his con- 
science no longer troubling him, was borne in utter 
helplessness into the current of his passion. Virtue 
was ruthlessly its own reward. They were denied 
even the glow of righteousness. Only a dry fever 
in the veins, heavy eyes, sleepless nights. Clear 
consciences were plainly not enough to promote 
sleep. It was only when she had rolled sheet and 
blanket into a smooth arm about her neck and 
pressed her cheek against the smooth cheek of the 
pillow that Nelly could find rest. 

The studio was maddeningly full of people. The 
Spinks and Hilda, Mrs. Hamel and her guests, 
seemed to have entered on a conspiracy to thwart 
the lovers. Loads of acquaintances began to arrive 
for an afternoon even in the middle of the week : 
"The weather was so tempting." Nelly and 
Anthony began to feel as if they had no spot to 
lay their heads. 

At last, one afternoon when only Hilda and her- 
self were there, Tony brought out a folio of his old 
designs and drawings. " Here, look at this and 
keep quiet," he said to Nelly almost roughly. 
"Hilda and I are going on with our work." 

Nelly, subdued, took the big black case and 
opened it upon her knees and began to look at it. 
Anthony's voice had hurt her so much that the 
tears were pricking her eyes. She turned over the 
loose pages : drawings of houses, drawings of 



INEVITABLE 188 

jewellery, drawings of flowers, of birds, of women, 
of dresses, and then in the middle a piece of paper 
on which was written something that began, 
"Sweetheart, I must see you . . ." and that ended, 
"Burn this." 

The ancient device, old as civilization itself, of 
the billet doux had inevitably evolved itself. From 
that time, save for flowered satin, Nelly became one 
of those tiny Figures that slyly grace the pillared 
background of Watteau's pictures. Her life was as 
wildly exciting as hide-and-seek all over the house, 
it was exhausting, it was exhilarating, it was fright- 
ening, it was beautiful, and it was very ugly indeed. 
It was the folk-song hidden in the complicated 
splendour of full orchestration ; it was a flame- 
coloured thread plaited invisibly among the multi- 
tudinous strands of other lives. It sent her about 
with downward smiles and sidelong glances alight 
and brilliant with mischief. It made her sing to 
herself as she walked in the woods ; it made the 
hours brush past as lightly as a swallow's wing. 
It made the company of her fellows the only soli- 
tude. It was mad and it was sad and it was bad ; 
it brought about a full half of its well-deserved 
tragedy, and it ended in being ridiculous; but while 
it lasted ! 

Anthony had made no complex plan. He had to 
be away for three days to direct some alterations in 
a house the other side of the next county. If Nelly 
could contrive to get to Stenling Park gate (about 
two miles out of Otterbridge) by half-past ten they 
could have a day together. There were so many 
things he wanted to say to her. Nelly could con- 
trive it. Her contribution to the conspiracy was to 



134 THE CHORUS 

get Mrs. Elkins to give her some cold meat and 
bread and butter to take with her, as she "intended 
to eat her lunch up in the Warren or somewhere " 
— that would prevent conspicuously missing a meal. 
It was a wonderful May morning when she started 
from the house. She accompanied Hilda a bit of 
the way uphill to The Height. She had left 
herself a bare allowance of time, yet somehow she 
found herself dawdling and chattering and defer- 
ring the moment when she must leave Hilda and 
plunge into the green arcades of the wood. Her 
heart was beating rapidly, her knees felt as if she 
were wading in water. 

At last, with a sharp effort, she managed to say, 
"Well, so long, Hilda. I won't come any further. 
See you at tea-time." And, having crossed a 
narrow plank and scrambled through a gap in the 
hedge, the woods enfolded her. 

Once there she set off to make up for lost time. 
The little path jogged shatteringly downward, the 
warm, bitter smell as of walnuts rose at every step 
from the crushed leaves and mire beneath her feet, 
the patches of sunlight as she ran through them 
streamed over her in liquid motion. 

Presently she emerged from the trees on the 
further side of Otterbridge. The path was now 
raised, hugging the side of the road. Coarse 
grasses caked with dust bordered it. Yellow colts- 
foot, bright-eye and red clover struggled through 
them. She walked swiftly, feeling intensely hot. 
At Baron's Corner she turned southward into a 
lane ; its violet-scented, leafy walls made a dark 
cavern after the dusty glare of the high road. She 
wondered anxiously if she was late. She glanced 



INEVITABLE 185 

behind for the sight of the motor. The lane began 
to go uphill and the hedges dwindled. 

An old red wall topped with grey stone succeeded 
them on the left. A sharp turn brought her in 
sight of the gates. The road was empty. She 
walked quite slowly. A sparrow flew down into 
her path and up over the wall again. She noticed 
the red lettex-box sunk in the wall. "Collections 
11.30 a.m. and 5.15 p.m.," she read in passing. 
The little square with the time of the next collection 
on it had been broken away. One could have 
imagined robins building in that letter-box. Little 
grass-like moss-flowers poked out of the crannies 
of the wall. A chestnut tree had made all the 
ground beneath it red with fallen blossoms. She 
wished she had a watch, she began to wish she 
had not come at all, and then somewhere in the 
lane she heard the purr of an approaching car. 
She did not cease walking, nor did she turn her 
head. This might be the doctor, or Mr. Grew, the 
publican from Churchfield. If it was Anthony she 
would show him how discreet she was. The car 
pulled up beside her. 

"Good girl," said Anthony. "Hop in quickly." 
Only by his voice could she have recognized 
him. He was wearing the most abundant motor 
"goggles" she had ever seen. "I've brought a 
coat for you and a bonnet," he told her. "Let's 
put you into them." 

He buttoned the coat beneath her chin. "Better 
wear the veil down." Nelly disappeared behind the 
mole-grey chiffon. Not till the brakes were released 
and the car slid forward had he a sense of security. 
Then his spirits rose. 



136 THE CHORUS 

The wind flowed past them, smooth against the 
throat as velvet. The famihar surroundings dis- 
appeared in an intoxicating, audacious swoop. 
Anthony took off his glasses, Nelly flung back her 
veil. She did not question him as to their destina- 
tion. He spoke to her at last, glancing down into 
her eyes — 

"Don't you want to know where I am taking 
you ? " 

Nelly shook her head. "I don't care a bit," she 
assured him. 

"Nelly — " he half sighed, half smiled — "you're 
a hopeless character." 

They pulled up at last at the little inn at Chidder- 
wick, where no one went since coaching days, 
thirty miles from home — and, for the matter of that, 
from everywhere. There they had dinner in the 
deserted dining-room, while an aged waiter polished 
innumerable glasses on a sideboard by the door, 
and later they walked in the woods behind the inn 
and saw great white and golden clouds streaming 
up above the spires of Linbury. 

"How wonderful it is!" said Tony. "How 
wonderful ! " 

He was speaking, he thought of the clouds, but 
he put his arms round her and held her to his 
breast. 

They did not speak of love that day ; they spoke 
only of the small things they could see : a late 
primrose, an early briar, the roofs below them 
among apple trees, an ascending lark — it was 
almost as if their kisses were less the objective 
than the accompaniment of the journey. 

\"\^hen it was time to go back Nelly remembered 



INEVITABLE 187 

her packet of lunch that she had not eaten. She 
did not know what to do with it. She had all poor 
people's horror of the unluckiness of throwing 
away food — a superstition that deserves, indeed, 
the honour of a faith. She was absurdly worried 
about it, and would not "just throw it into the 
hedge " the car tore past, as Tony advised. Grind- 
ing up the steep High Street of Linbury they per- 
ceived a blind beggar sitting against the wall of 
the Market House, a blind beggar black clad and 
cowled like a leper. 

"Here's your man," said Tony, stopping the 
car. 

Nelly leapt out. "Could you eat a few cold 
beef sandwiches, poor man ? " she addressed the 
shrouded figure, and, without waiting for an 
answer, popped the parcel into his lap and ran 
back to the car. His dismal blessing followed her. 
It was the only one that her excursions with Tony 
received. They passed him on their way whenever 
they could. 

Tony brought her back to Stoddington, west of 
Otterbridge, on the Brighton road, by mid- 
afternoon. 

"I wish I could take you to the door, but, you 
see " 

"Of course, of course, Tony." She scrambled 
out of the cloak and bonnet and put on her own 
soft hat. 

"Good-bye, my darling. Sure you've enjoyed 
it?" The brown fingers lingered on her own. "I 
shall have to go like the devil now if I'm to get 
to Chichester by daylight." 

"Be careful, Tony." 



138 THE CHORUS 

His white teeth flashed at her. The motor was 
reversed, the car swung slowly round, a backward 
wave of the sunburnt hand, and he was rearing 
from her. She stood looking after him till he was 
nearly out of sight; not quite — that would have 
been unlucky. She felt unaccountably crestfallen 
as she walked back to Elkins's. 

That was the first of many expeditions. Some- 
times they met at Stenling Park, sometimes outside 
Stoddington. Sometimes they lunched beside a 
shallow lake in sunny woods, sometimes under the 
sun-bleached downs at Arundel, once at Brighton — 
but Nelly's beauty and shabbiness were too astound- 
ing there — oftenest at the little inn at Chidderwick ; 
but wherever they might make the turning-point 
of the journey its happiness for Nelly was ever the 
same and was reached at that moment when, the 
gooseberry pie or rhubarb pie being eaten, Anthony 
let his level eyes dwell upon her, and sent his 
strong fingers in pursuit of hers across the table- 
cloth, and drew her slowly, in her feigned reluct- 
ance, round the table and into the imprisoning 
ardour of his arms. Held against his knee, her 
head pressed into the accepting cavity of his 
shoulder, an hour passed, like the indrawing of 
a single breath. 



CHAPTER XIII 

TRIVIALITIES 

Meanwhile life at The Height displayed its 
usual unruffled surface, there was as yet no swift 
eddy, no snag, no floating weed, no darkening in- 
dication of danger. May deepened to June, and the 
land lay basking. Even Mrs. Hamel went into the 
garden sometimes, and might be seen there lan- 
guidly promenading on her maid's arm, or sitting 
in a lounge chair in the shadow of the cedar trees 
with a pile of uncut novels and books of reminis- 
cences, preferably by persons of title, on a table 
at her side. She gazed with a detached admiration 
that could never be described as enjoyment at the 
heavy flowers of the standard roses, at the carna- 
tions and stocks and delphiniums. She wore a 
shady hat of gracious fashion, and drew long 
gloves upon her hands before going out. 

Sometimes she invited the girls to come and talk 
to her, or rather to let her talk to them. They were 
a distinctly tanned and freckled pair, and Erica 
could not restrain a feeling of satisfaction at the 
contrast of their sunburnt skins to her own white 
one. Beside them she appeared as might a china 
shepherdess strayed into the company of Dryads. 
She enjoyed having little discussions with Hilda 

139 



140 THE CHORUS 

and demolishing the girl's sweeping assertions with 
her own maturer knowledge. Mrs. Hamel liked to 
illustrate in her own person the common idea of 
eternal femininity. When Hilda clapped wings 
for independence, Mrs. Hamel expressed her need 
to be taken care of; when Hilda w^aved the flag 
for courage of one's own opinions, Mrs. Hamel 
hoped she personally would always believe that 
there existed wiser heads than her own ; when Hilda 
hurled the guttings of medical pamphlets at her, 
Mrs. Hamel made a strategic movement into cover 
with the remark that there were some things she 
preferred not to think about. 

"You can't get to grips with her," Hilda would 
complain, "she'll tell you politely you don't know 
what you are taking about, and when you throw 
a fact at her she lifts a great shield of decency and 
hides behind that." 

"She's very clever, Hilda," said Nelly solemnly. 

"Oh, if you call that cleverness— but after all, 
what does the woman know about anything ? She's 
only been married and lain on a sofa for the rest 
of her life." 

"She knows a good deal, all the same," said 
Nelly, "she knows what she wants and she gets it. 
That's my notion of cleverness," said Nelly. 

She resented Mrs. Hamel's presence in the 
garden. The big house and all the elaborations it 
contained she could grant her, but the garden and 
the fragrant winds that blew there she regarded as 
her own. Mrs. Hamel would be coming to the 
studio next. 

"Say what you will, Hilda," Mrs. Hamel was 
saying, "women do not as a whole excel in any art. 



TRIVIALITIES 141 

There isn't a single department in life that man 
cannot beat them in." 

"It's just as true to say there isn't a single 
department that some women don't beat some 
men in." 

"My dear girl, what nonsense — look at music, 
look at painting ! " 

"You seem to agree with the people who think 
every man is a mixture of Beethoven and Michael 
Angelo ! " 

"I don't think anything so silly, but you can't 
deny the facts ! " 

"I don't deny them. I think women are as 
capable of appreciating genius as men. But to use 
the artistic genius of certain men as reason for 
giving every booby paying house-rent the vote, 
seems to be about as relevant as the question, 
' Should sawdust merchants dance quadrilles? ' I 
don't depend on Helen of Troy and Ninon de 
I'Enclos for my case." 

" I have a book here which proves quite ably — 
if you read it I don't think you could deny the 
ability — that if women were excluded from every 
profession except physical motherhood, the world 
would get on very well without them." 

"I can imagine the world getting on very well 
without half the paraphernalia of a modern state 
if it comes to that. I can imagine it without 
la\v3'ers, or police, or cat's-meat men, or soldiers 
very well." 

"Oh, of course, if you want to abolish the army 
like the peace at any price crowd-^ " 

Nelly let the argument drone on above her head. 
Her thoughts were filled with one thing only and 



142 THE CHORUS 

the level distance, the wavering smoke ribbons, the 
faint rattle of hidden carts, the young roibin watch- 
ing them with bright eye from the handle of a 
lawn roller, made for it a subservient harmony. 

"An army in times of peace is a plague spot, in 
times of war an infamy," cried Hilda, with noisy 
rhetoric. 

"Please don't abuse my relations," protested 
Mrs. Hamel. "The army is a thing you must allow 
me to know something about. It's a splendid thing 
for a people, it keeps them from getting flabby. 
Every man in the country should be compelled to 
serve in it." 

" Do you call a workman hammering the gigantic 
side of a liner flabby ? Do you call the men who 
build skyscrapers flabby? I don't think they're in 
danger of flabbiness, they're much more in danger 
of breaking their necks." 

"I'm not talking about the lower classes, Hilda. 
I mean the sort of men who come here. Conscrip- 
tion would do them a world of good. Janet Fitch 
says the only first-hand knowledge any of them have 
of the sterner side of life is the discomfort of their 
starched collars, and some of them don't even wear 
those." 

"Still — even for their moral welfare — I don't 
think we'd really enjoy the wreck and horror of 
a war." 

"The war is inevitable. It must come," cried 
Mrs. Hamel. "I was hearing about it from Sir 
Galton Strong only last Sunday. He says Ger- 
many must find an outlet for her surplus population. 
Germany won't go on being hemmed in. She's 
increasing by a million a year." 



TRIVIALITIES 143 

"Well, the thing for Germany to do is simply 
to stop having- a surplus population. Once the 
Hausfrau gets a trifle civilized " 

"Really, Hilda, the things you young girls talk 
about ! " 

"Well, it wouldn't be much fun arguing if you 
had to rule out half the things you know as im- 
proper. Thinking would be like fighting with your 
hands cuffed." 

"Well, I think the right thing for the world is 
that the population should go on increasing." 

"With wars to keep it within bounds?" 

"With wars to keep it within bounds." 

"If you hadn't something of that sort, I sup- 
pose," said Nelly, "we'd soon not have room to sit 
down." 

They laughed a little. 

Hilda persisted : " I think your method is an 
encouragement of useless suffering." 

" Is suffering ever useless ? " 

"Of course it is. And degrading too. That's 
why I'm a feminist. I regard feminism as a 
crusade against suffering." 

"My dear Hilda, there is no such thing as 
feminism. It is a purely economic movement. I 
was told the other day by a man who really knows 
about these things " And so on. 

Mrs. Hamel believed herself to have an oracular 
knowledge that could contradict the obvious truths 
of existence. Sir Galton Strong, or "someone in 
the education office," or "a man who is considered 
to have a very brilliant mind indeed," were her 
authorities, and once assured of a sound source 
she never questioned the quality of the water. 



144 THE CHORUS 

Nelly had an impression of these people as very- 
tall and still more solemn beings, whose sense of 
their own wisdom fell like a blight upon merriment. 

On the talk would go, and presently Nelly would 
catch a phrase. 

"But surely you are not in favour of free love?" 

" I think free is a good adjective to prefix to 
most things — but it wants defining." 

"Well, I'm sure I don't want anyone else's 
husband, and I don't want anyone else to have 
mine ! " 

"But they are bound to want him, some of them, 
he is so charming ! " 

Mrs. Hamel smiled. "My dear, we are not 
animals,^^ 

Nelly watched two white butterflies that hid and 
sought one another in the tulip bed dancing and 
dodging and flickering together, and then one left 
behind and the other winging solitary away with 
only itssmall shadow following below it on the grass. 

So the weeks went, a little talk, some tennis, a 
long walk or two, a sitting in the studio, supper 
on Sunday at The Height and music. The new 
faces were pleasantly similar in their variety. Very 
smart girls and less smart "well-connected" girls 
making friends for an afternoon with Nelly in the 
studio, amused by her, interested, and then sud- 
denly holding her at arm's length, as it were, while 
they discussed their balls and whether it was not 

as well to perfume the hair, and if so what with 

"There's a delightful little new shop at the back 

of Dover Street " or they agreed that violet 

powder was not the thing for a "gehl." "When 
one's married, of course," but the great thing for 



TRIVIALITIES 145 

a "gehl" was to be fresh. And they decided that 
men always Hked hair done "low" better than "on 
top." "Of course, you will wear yours low when 
you put it up," they said to Nelly. And she learnt 
that pale blue ribbons were really the only tolerable 
ones for underclothing — pink, perhaps, was pos- 
sible ; but mixed colours, mauve or orange, vul- 
garity. " It's no use trying for individuality over 
that sort of thing." Originality in most things, to 
be sure, though amusing for a while in other people, 
was really bad form in oneself. 

Nelly was humbled before their omniscience. 
They in turn felt it to be an immense success if 
they contrived to get her society for Sunday 
afternoon at The Height. "Will you let us walk 
with you to-morrow ? " they would ask, were they 
fortunate enough to be included in the Saturday 
"drawing-room" of the studio. Nelly's engage- 
ments were not of the rigid kind that enforced her 
to make refusals, and she would set off resignedly 
in her old blue cotton dress between Miss Meale- 
Maugham and Miss Cynthia de C. Latham in their 
flowered and striped muslins, not a little puzzled 
at the ardour in pursuing her and exhilaration in 
having captured her that they made no effort to 
conceal. She did not know how largely the rumour 
of her presence was whispered at The Height. 
How a newcomer having said, "Oh, shall we be 
let look at Mr. Hamel's studio ? " The answer 
would be given with pursed lips: "That depends 
on many things — you know there's a sort of fairy 
princess down there." 

"A fairy princess! How very exciting! Do 
please tell me about her — — " 

L 



146 THE CHORUS 

So was Nelly's reputation made, and many were 
the disappointed maidens with bitter hearts and 
drooping mouths who spent Saturday afternoon 
reading in the library or walking in mutual boredom 
round the gardens. The men and the older people 
did not become aware of this key-stone of social 
success, the agitating gossip did not reach them, 
but the younger dames were ready to shed tears 
should inclusion in the studio be withheld from 
them. To share the fairy princess's company in 
exclusive splendour for the Sunday afternoon as well 
was giddiest triumph. They would return from 
these excursions full of disjointed hints as to the 
beauty and brilliance of the mysterious stranger. 

"She isn't like anyone you've seen before, is 
she ? " they would agree before the baffled curiosity 
of the envious throng. "There's what Mr. Keath 
calls — what was it Mr. Keath called it? — oh, yes, 
that's it — a witchcraft about her. He says she's 
under a spell." "And Mr. Young said — (Steven 
had returned again) — that it was they that were 
under the spell, not she." "They all call her 
Rapunsel." "She's going on the stage." "Mr. 
Hamel thinks her the loveliest person he has ever 
seen. He told Mamma so." " /5 she very lovely ? " 
from one of the curious ones. "Well, she is 
extremely pretty, nobody could deny that — she is 
very striking, and her hair is simply marvellous. 
Yes — I suppose one would call her beautiful . . . 
she's certainly very attractive. She has a way of 
speaking. . . . Oh, I couldn't call her the loveliest 
person I've ever seen. . . . Really Millicent Hard- 
wicke is much better looking . . . but she cer- 
tainly has a fascination about her. You can't help 



TRIVIALITIES 147 

watching her all the time to see what she will do 
next. . . ." Then they would discuss whether it 
is better to be charming or fascinating and which 
is which. 

Nelly did not enjoy the walks as much as they 
did. It gave her almost a sensation of having been 
trapped when the warm, slim young arms slid 
affectionately into her own. She became conscious 
of the extreme delicacy of the shoes that were 
advanced and hidden in rhythmic nimbleness on 
either side of her common black-laced ones. The 
light, high-pitched voices embarrassed her. 

"When are you coming out? " they always asked 
— a question that may be called a "facer" for a 
girl who has never been "in." 

They would confide their petty love-affairs to her 
and try to hear of hers in return. Failing that, 
for Nelly was now gently inscrutable on that sub- 
ject, they would get her opinion on how you could 
tell if a man was flirting or if he meant what he 
said. "Ah, sure, nobody means what they say," 
Nelly would disillusion them, she who on principle 
always deducted seventy per cent, from compli- 
ments. Then they would make her heart ache 
planning frocks that they thought would suit her. 
"Why don't you go to Sehna, she really isn't dear ? 
She'll make up your own stuff between the seasons 
too, and use any old evening gown for a lining 
quite wonderfiilly." Or "what sort of furs do you 
wear, Nelly? You oughtn't to wear shaggy ones 
while your hair is still down. . . . You'd look 
lovely in ermine." Nelly did not doubt that. By 
her second experience of these newly-grown-up 
damsels she had learnt to lie a little, it was dull 



148 THE CHORUS 

for them and humiliating for herself to have to 
keep repeating, "I haven't any furs," "I haven't 
any old evening dresses." She would give them 
the glinted name of her Aunt Colquhoun, and a 
tantalizingly shallow insight into her family history. 
In the end she would have promised to write to 
them and would only just have avoided, they 
remembering in time to check themselves, invita- 
tions to come and see them in town in the winter. 
Mr. and Mrs. Fannan-\\^ake indeed did ask her, 
but when she mentioned them to one of these 
Olympians her satisfaction was soon dispelled by 
the murmur with raised eyebrows, "The Fannan- 
Wakes ? They moved from Wardour Street to 
Belgrave Square in a lifetime, didn't they?" 

It was all the same, whether she walked with 
Miss Meale-Maugham or Miss C. de C. Latham, 
Miss Anne Paley, or Miss Jocasta Adams. Sooner 
or later in the afternoon would come a request : 
"Do ask Mr. Hamel to design a dress for me for 
the Albert Hall ball on the loth," or "Father wants 
Mr. Hamel to design a music-room at Owlswell 
for us — do try to persuade him," or "Wouldn't a 
dance be fun here, Nelly? It's a shame to waste 
(hat great room at The Height. Suggest it to 
Mr. Ilamel and get him to ask us all down. 
Do. . . ." There was no limit to their importuni- 
ties. Sometimes Nelly did as she was asked, 
oftener she didn't. She knew quite well her influ- 
ence with Anthony, and it was too precious a 
possession for her to risk straining it. He asked 
her opinion about everything, not because he 
thought her judgment valuable, but because he 
believed that she was right. It was a superstition. 



TRIVIALITIES 149 

He consulted her when other men would toss a 
penny. She was his oracle, his little green-clad 
familiar spirit, and she was not disposed somehow 
to interest him too keenly in the affairs of these 
other girls who to her were so wonderful. She 
could not control an involuntary jealousy that 
sprang within her sometimes as she descended the 
hill with Hilda, knowing him in his own house 
and the door closed to her. She and Hilda were 
only w^orkaday friends of all up there. The week- 
ends brought the real people. She did not know 
how the memory of her presence lingered with him 
like a perfume. She longed to be with him at 
different hours of the day. To see him at breakfast 
time, and lunch and dinner, to accept all the small 
conventional attentions from him, to be part of 
his ordinary life. Her breasts felt burnt as with fire 
when from a vantage ground on the Warren she 
saw a new bevy of daintily dressed women troop 
out of the house for a walk or tennis, or to sit chat- 
ting among the garden flowers. She often left 
Elkinses' now- as early as Hilda (she did not wish 
their sharp-eyed landlady to remark anything un- 
usual in those other special excursions of hers) and 
from the Warren watched all day the comings and 
goings. She did not know if it more tormented or 
consoled her to catch sight of Anthony's minute 
figure as he came and went. Sometimes he would 
walk in to lunch with Hilda, but oftener a troop 
of people surrounded him half-way and bore him 
indoors among them. Full length she lay upon 
the pine-needles, a female Gulliver plagued by these 
remote unconscious Lilliputians. 



CHAPTER XIV 

PANDOLEFSKY ON THE SEX QUESTION 

Anthony Hamel knew very well tliat he had 
created what could easily become an entirely dis- 
gusting situation. It was one thing to delight in 
the constant company of a charming young girl, 
and another to seek every opportunity to kiss her. 
There was no great difference in the spirit of the 
thing perhaps, but it was one of those cases in 
which the letter giveth life. It was impossible for 
him not to be ashamed of himself. Brought up as 
he had been in a tradition of seemliness, which is 
at least the most gracious aspect of hypocrisy, it 
was the nearness in actual space of Erica and Nelly 
that filled him, in the absence of the latter, with a 
shuddering contempt for himself. Had he met the 
girl on his travels, under Southern stars or similar 
provocation, he would not have suffered such 
humiliation at his own behaviour. He had, he 
assured himself, none of the conventional moral 
objections, and it was solely the dislike of hurting 
his Erica's feelings, of making her think he was 
not sincerely fond of her (which he was), that set 
him at such pains to deceive her. To have had 
one life with Nelly fifty miles away, and another, 
his real life, the life that he himself and everybody 
else admired and respected, at The Height would 
have been endurable, in fact exceedingly enjoyable, 

150 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 151 

but to have to lead two lives at once, to be in a 
perpetual perspiration of deceit, to have to change 
expression and voice like an actor, not for a few 
hours, but at any moment throughout the day, was 
both nauseating and tiresome. Only Nelly's arms 
about his neck could shut away that feeling, and 
even then it inspired his tongue to ask her again 
and again, "Are you sure you don't hate me, 
Nelly ? Are you sure you have forgiven me ? " 
(She hated those questions, though she did not 
understand them, judging his love for her by her 
love for him, they were absurd, but instinct told 
her they were ill-omened for her. He never asked 
them till they were saying good-bye.) There was 
an honourable thing to do, a noble thing, the thing 
that Erica had always deprecated in his friends ; 
but — he found himself clinging to the fact that 
Erica had always deprecated it. He could not bear 
the thought of grieving Erica, that punctual soul 
in the frail body ; he must not grieve her. He 
clung to that duty, letting it fill his mind to 
the exclusion of other duties. He could be frank 
with himself about certain things, but he was too 
kindly a man to care much for the cruelty of com- 
plete truth. His mind was a sky of windy weather, 
now gleaming clear, now totally obscured ; and 
before all things there was the temptation of his 
passion and Nelly's lulling encouragement of it. 
How it would end, how he wanted it to end, were 
not in his imagination. Like Nelly herself, he was 
living in the happiness of the present, careless of 
what the future might hold. He had a notion that 
it contained for them both a way out. 
Sometimes he found himself wishing that the 



152 THE CHORUS 

girl was more fastidious. That she herself would 
say to him, "This situation is impossible, Tony. 
I can't live like this," and that she would go away. 
But the vision of his days without her hurt too 
keenly. He would find himself, instead, picturing 
the pursuit and reunion with her, and the pleasure 
of that scene would set him longing for her voice 
at the studio door again. And w'hen she came, 
what desire was left him to be rid of her? She felt 
no degradation in his love, for her there was none. 
She trusted him entirely. If he had said, "You 
must come away with me," she would have come 
without the slightest hesitation. Her perfect faith 
in him swept him with tenderness. Her great eyes, 
full of an unquestioning devotion, revealed her very 
soul at his mercy. And if her soul was his, her 
body was his also, beautiful to stroke and hold. 
He could never content himself with the simple 
knowledge that she loved him. He seized every 
moment that they were alone — and such moments 
were few and scattered — to kiss and caress her. 
Sometimes it was thanks only to Hilda's lack of 
observation that her unpractised youth did not 
betray them. He put too fierce a strain upon her 
powers of simulation. She felt that all the world 
must read his hand's mark on the long smoothness 
of her hair or upon the roundness of her breast. 
Once when, in the wholly deliberate exuberance of 
his homecoming, he had found her and Hilda alone 
in the studio, and had caught her by the elbows 
and tried to jump her into the air, her sharp "Don't 
do that ! " seemed to him to cry their secret to the 
winds. He was better at deception than she was. 
It astonished her, theease with which he glided from 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 153 

intimacy to ordinariness at a breath. While she 
would be shaken and flushed with the ecstasy of him, 
he would be taking the temperature of the furnace 
or searching in the press for some design or jewel. 
It saddened her a little that he should have himself 
so well under control, but she only made it into 
another attribute for marvelling. How frightful it 
would be, she reminded herself, if their secret was 
found out ! It was for her sake that they must 
have secrecy ; Anthony had told her that. Yet she 
should not care, she knew, if what they did was 
known to everybody. She was both too proud and 
too humble. She loved him so much that she did 
not care what happened to her so long as he had 
pleasure. That it was that kept her on her guard. 
And surely he did not love her less because he did 
not want all the world to know it ? 

It was very difficult always to remember. Some- 
times when she had been but a moment released 
from the strong castle of his arms she found herself 
on the point of calling him "Tony " in public, and 
when, remembering in time, she called him "Mr. 
Hamel," her voice had so much scared amusement 
in it that even Hilda noticed that there w^as some- 
thing strange. She could not imagine what it was, 
but she felt suddenly anxious and worried about the 
girl. Suppose she angered Mr. Hamel with this 
ill-concealed impertinence and he requested Hilda 
to bring her to the studio no more ? Only a few 
days later her fears seemed realized when she learnt 
that Nelly was to confine her presence in the studio 
solely to tea-time, and at the same time it struck 
her that there was just a perceptible coolness in 
Mr. Hamel's treatment of the girl. He no longer 



154 THE CHORUS 

hailed her extravagantly when she came in, nor did 
he even ask her to pose for him. She mentioned 
her idea to Miss Fitch. 

"I'm afraid Mr. Hamel isn't as interested in 
Nelly as he used to be." 

"Oho!" said Miss Fitch, whisking wide open 
her eyes; "and what, now, makes you think that?" 

Hilda told her. 

"M'm ! " said the clever one. She determined to 
give the matter her closest attention. 

It was not lack of interest, however, that made 
Anthony exclude Nelly from the studio. Since he 
had admitted his passion for her he found that in 
her presence he could not work. It required a con- 
stant watchfulness to keep him from stretching out 
a hand for hers as he sat at his table, or from kissing 
her soft arm as she passed near him. She was so 
sweet and wonderful an addition to his life. He 
revelled in the thought of her, he exulted and was 
ravished ; but for that very reason he had to deny 
himself her company. He could not let his work 
go to the wall. 

About this time anyone at The Height with 
an ear finely attuned to the note of the house, as 
country people judge the state of mind of the bees 
by listening to the sound of the beehive, would 
have heard the constant repetition of a single 
phrase ; would have heard it spoken in company 
and in the unquiet questionings of minds, spoken 
sharply, and querulously, and anxiously, and 
satirically, and soothingly (with a particular and 
conscious dwelling on this last sedative manner). 
The phrase was : "Of course, she is quite a child." 

The talk was started by a rash impulse of 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 155 

Anthony's. In Linbury one day Nelly noticed in 
a shop a set of remarkably fine old china, gay, 
resplendent teacups laden with strange Chinese 
flowers and butterflies — early work, as it turned out, 
of the elder Wedgwood. On his way back a few 
days later he bought the set as a surprise for Nelly. 
Hilda found him unpacking it when she arrived 
at the studio next morning. "What, more china ! " 
she cried. "What an eye you have for it, Boss! 
But where do you mean to put it?" "We'll use 
it out here," said Anthony; "it will be nicer than 
those old chipped cups, won't it?" Nelly was in 
loud raptures when they were shown to her. "Oh, 
Boss, how lovely of you ! Did you really get them 
for me ? " She pouted a little when, for Hilda's 
benefit, he repeated that he was tired of "those old 
chipped cups." It seemed so ungrateful to the old 
ones, and they had had such good times with the 
help of them. She was very proud when, at tea- 
time, she heard the astonished and admiring chorus 
of their guests, and Anthony's "Caught sight of 
them in Linbury ; thought they were too good to 
miss." So far, so good. Steven Young it was 
who led her to disaster. 

"They are little marvels, Tony," he said; "but 
I'm not sure that I don't like Nelly's old ones 
better. I have a sentimental attachment to them." 
Nelly waited for Tony, and as he did not speak she 
said softly, "These are mine, too." There was a 
moment of remarkable silence, followed by an 
equally remarkable outburst of talk : " How lovely 
for you ! " " How wonderfully appropriate for 
you ! " "They'd make the fortune of a collector ! " 
and a speech that seemed to crawl among the others 



156 THE CHORUS 

like a stoat: "What a pity we haven't all Mr. 
Hamels to give us tea-sets ! " The beastliness of 
that smote Nelly. Her miserable eyes sought 
Anthony's downcast ones. She was suddenly 
aware that many different pairs of eyes were meet- 
ing. She made a nervous, convulsive movement, 
and the cup she was holding fell to the ground. 
There was a rush to pick up the fragments. It 
seemed to her at that moment as if all her little 
world was falling to pieces. She stood flushing 
above the bending backs. The sly voice said again 
— it belonged to a deadly smart girl with a cigarette 
stuck to her lower lip: "You'll have to be given 
another set soon, if that's the way you treat them." 

Nelly was plunged in shame. She felt as if she 
had been beaten. In their anxiety to avoid harping 
on the accident it seemed as if they made the 
conversation intentionally skirt her. None of the 
women addressed to her another direct remark. 
She found herself on the outskirts of the group, 
quite unnoticed. She might have been put in the 
corner. She was dazed at the unanimity of it. It 
was the mob spirit in miniature. She longed to 
break away from them and get out into the air and 
throw herself upon the grass and cry. She felt 
in this unaccustomed neglect the inspiration of 
Anthony's disfavour. 

"I cannot bear it," she thought; "I cannot bear 
it. I must get away." 

" I wish Mother would write to me," she said 
quaveringly to Hilda that evening as they walked 
down the hill to Elkins's. "I'm doing no good 
here." 

"Ah, don't say that," Hilda implored her. 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 157 

"What's wrong? I did mean you to be so happy 
with me." 

"Darling Hilda, I've never been so happy in my 
life. I can't tell you how happy I've been." 

"It was a pity about the cup, but don't be 
worried. I'm sure Mr. Hamel won't be vexed for 
long." 

"Ah, it isn't only that ! " sighed Nelly. 

There were a good many discreet conversations 
at The Height that evening, beginning with a 
significant "Well, my dear, what do you think of 
it?" and ending with the usual "Of course, he 
regards her as a child." Only the deadly smart 
girl, with a whisky-and-soda on her bedroom 
mantelpiece, volunteered quite boldly to give them 
her opinion, and was surprised at the way the con- 
versation fluttered from the subject without her 
offer having been accepted. She could not under- 
stand all this delicacy being shown in regard to so 
entrancing a creature as Nelly. " If you're as pretty 
as that you have to be careful. It's one of the 
penalties. Thank God, I'm such a rum-lookin' guy 
no one ever thinks of slandering me," she confided 
to a friend. She did not understand their queer 
diffidence. 

It certainly was curious that, with so strong a 
feeling of having been unable to help noticing in 
the air, no one was anxious to give tongue to the 
surmises. It was the possible solitariness of the 
suspicions that gave a tinge of vulgarity to such 
thoughts. No one was eager to be the first to 
acknowledge them. "What a coarse, finite mind I 
have I " Miss Fitch would reproach herself, pluck- 
ing impatiently at the rose-leaves as she walked 



158 THE CHORUS 

along the narrow causeway. "What a crude 
imagination ! Why can't I be content with what 
I see ? Why must I want to go interpreting ? " 
And Mrs. Arden, very sweet to Nelly as a balance 
for her unworthy doubts, would think: "After all, 
Tony Hamel can't be judged like other men. He's 
such an unconscious creature." And they would 
say to one another : " How boyish he always is ! 
He will never learn ordinary dull, grown-up, 
cautious ways." And that would bring them back 
to the childishness of Nelly, and they would shy a 
bit at the recurrence of the word, and vaguely hope 
that "Hilda's little friend" did not fancy herself in 
love with him. 

Each was determined not to be the first to 
mention what "anyone with a nasty mind might 
possibly suspect, my dear." Suspicion of any kind 
made one positively ill, and The Height was such 
a pleasant place for wearing summer muslins. 
There was a hum of half-suppressed utterance in 
the air. 

The knowledge that people were talking was 
conveyed to the objects of the discussion in two 
distinct and thoroughly unpleasant ways. To 
Anthony it happened in this fashion : An old 
acquaintance of his at the club where Anthony 
stayed when he was in town became confidential 
in the smoking-room. 

"I saw your car at Chidderwick the other day, 
old man," he began the story; "at least, I'd be 
almost ready to swear it was yours — long grey 
fellow, six-cylinder. I suppose your chauffeur ain't 
in the habit of taking joy-rides ? " 

"Oh, they all do," said Anthony unconcernedly. 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 159 

"Well, he's a deucedly lucky chap, then," said 
Gregory Howard amiably. "Picked up the abso- 
lutely handsomest little slip of a girl I've seen this 
very long time. Wish you'd ask him to introduce 
me." 

"I'll try to remember to mention it," said 
Anthony imperturbably. 

"Do; and there's another thing you might 
mention at the same time, and that is for her to 
wear her veil down, or she'll be getting into 
trouble with her school-ma'am. And if he's wise 
he'll take to wearing his goggles, too." 

"I'll tell him," said Anthony; "thanks for the 
tip, old man." 

So it was known. 

Plainly their excursions would have to stop. If 
by that one chance in a thousand (no one in his 
senses went to Chidderwick) they had been seen, 
other people might see them, too. Nelly was too 
magnificently conspicuous. 

"God I" he thought; "what ought I to do? 
What do I want to do ? " 

Nelly received her hint in a far less genial 
fashion, and from the person last in the world that 
she would have wished to have the power to give 
it. For it came from Pandolefsky. There had 
been for a long time something sinister in the way 
he looked at her; a gloating and cruel enjoyment. 
He knew, she was sure, how uneasy he was making 
her, and how a laugh on his face would quench 
the laughter in hers. She had been stupid in her 
treatment of him. When she reviewed her months 
at Otterbridge she wished she had behaved more 
cleverly. She tormented herself with thinking of 



160 THE CHORUS 

it. She had been two swift in ignorini: him when, 
Anthony first absorbed her interest. If only she 
had not "fooled round" with the creature in the 
beginning — if only she had taken Hilda's advice ! 
It was too easy to rouse a brute like that; it was, 
indeed, more of a success not to rouse him. But 
then she had not known how all the men would 
like her, and Pandolefsky even was better than 
no one. She did wish, though, that she had not 
let him kiss her. It did give him a vantage-ground 
for sneers. It was housemaidish. She ought to 
have known better. Of course, she had meant 
nothing by it. It was just to pass the time. Why 
couldn't he have forgotten it? She very nearly 
had, until his leering face began to disturb her 
peace. Did he know, did he not know? He did 
not leave her long in uncertainty. There was a 
big crowd in the studio that moment he chose— 
Ardent Keath, Stevie, Miss Fitch, everybody— and 
before they had come she had had five minutes 
alone with Anthony; in fact, while Hilda was 
fetching them. She and Anthony had forgotten 
Pandolefsky, and, indeed, everything in the world 
but themselves, but they fancied they had eluded 
his little hot eyes, when his shadow made silent 
announcement of his presence at the door. He 
said he had left something behind — his pipe, his 
penknife — she could not remember which. Per- 
haps he had simply been spying on them. It was 
most likely. On his heels came all the others, and 
instead of leaving in sullen haste, as usual, he stood 
about listening to the conversation. His malignant 
expression kept her apprehensive eyes upon his 
face. Then she knew what he was waiting for. 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 161 

Anthony paused near him, and she saw Pando- 
lefsky hft his hand and make a motion as of draw- 
ing a thread from Anthony's sleeve. Then, looking 
very steadily at her, he moved across the room and 
stood a moment near her to make sure that she saw 
what he wound upon his fingers. It was a long, 
bright hair. When he saw that she had seen, he 
went away. Yes, Pandolefsky had his own way 
of telling a thing. She was haunted now by the 
question of what he meant to do with his know- 
ledge ; scared and worried, as he intended her to 
be. Almost she went to him herself and asked 
him, only the humiliation of acknowledging her 
cowardice was too deep for her. She could not do 
that. She must suffer in uncertainty the insolence 
and menace of his smile. She was unable when 
away from him to forget her anxiety and pursue 
her hereditary habit of trusting to luck. A few 
days later one of Anthony's notes came to increase 
her despondency — 

"My sweet girl, there must be no more motoring. 
I have heard something that makes it impossible — 
at least for the present. Darling, you know how 
badly it hurts, this separation from you, and how 
I hate having to increase it. Dear, dear child, 
don't be unhappy. I tell myself again and again 
that I have only brought you wretchedness, and 
yet when I close my eyes I see your smiling mouth 
and hear your laughter. I shall find a way to see 
you — soon, soon. Good-bye. Think of me some- 
times. I kiss your hands." 

She was sitting in the little glade with the letter 
in her hand when Pandolefsky came on her. She 
had taken off her shoes and stockings, and her bare 

M 



162 THE CHORUS 

feet hung dejectedly in the water. She was wonder- 
ing what had become of her happiness, grieving at 
the blackness of her days, the heaviness of her 
spirit. When he came behind her she turned 
without any suddenness. There was nothing just 
then that could add to her dreariness, nothing to 
be surprised or startled at. She accepted his 
presence as part of her misfortune, and her mind 
made no comment on him as he stood surveying 
her with one hand resting on an ash-tree shaft, 
shoulders hunched, head thrust forward, leering, 
satirical. Round his neck a scarf of silk printed 
in many colours had been twisted; his serge 
trousers, of too vivid a dark blue, were dusty at 
the knees; his shirt was stained with sweat; his 
coat was slung across his shoulder. Her eyes took 
in the details as if he were a painted image, not 
a live meddler with her destiny. She did not 
attempt to speak to him. There seemed nothing 
just then to say. Presently she was aware that 
the image was smiling. Its eyes were directed to 
her feet. She realized with a shock that some 
action was expected of her ; that they were not 
just to stay passively looking at one another and 
then to go separate ways. The silence became a 
quarrel. She drew back from the edge of the stream 
and tried to cover her bare feet with her skirts. 
Decidedly she was at a disadvantage. She looked 
round for her shoes and stockings, but they were 
farther up the bank. She flushed with annoyance. 
He enjoyed her discomfiture. 

" Waiting for anybody ? " he asked at last. 

"No," she replied, giving him the shortest 
possible answer. 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 163 

"Then I shan't be interrupting," he said. He 
took his hand from the tree and came heavily down 
the bank. "Having" a paddle, eh?" 

"I'm just going home," said Nelly briefly. 

"Not going just when I come? That would be 
unkind! I've been wanting a talk with you for 
quite a long while. This is what I call a Heaven- 
sent opportunity." He picked up her shoes and 
surveyed them jauntily. 

"Give me my shoes, please," said Nelly. 

"I'll put them on for you," said Pandolefsky. 

"You'll do nothing of the kind," said Nelly. 

"Allow me," said Pandolefsky, moving in front 
of her; "the right foot, please." 

"Will you go away?" She tucked her feet 
beneath her. 

"What's all the fuss about? " asked Pandolefsky, 
with pretended innocence. "My modesty won't be 
offended. I'm not one of the nobs. What are you 
trying to hide them for ? Thought they were one 
of your strong points. You're never anxious to 
hide any of your strong points, Miss Hayes, are 
you? You're not very clever at hiding anything, 
are you ? " 

Nelly did not answer. She was cold with anger 
and dread. 

"Why won't you let me put them on? You 
usen't to be so particular. You're not very, very 
particular now, are you ? " 

Still silence. 

"You needn't talk to me if you don't want to," 
he went on. "I can't make you speak or anything 
else, can I ? I haven't got the pass-word. I 
haven't got carroty hair and a motor-car. I'm just 



164 THE CHORUS 

a low brute of a servant, that's all I am. ' Yes, 
Miss.' ' Thank you, Miss.' ' Pleasant weather 
we're 'aving, Miss.' I'm going to sit beside you 
snug and comfortable." He sat dov/n beside her 
as he spoke. "Now we're cosy, aren't we ? Quite 
like old times. Remember that morning in the 
orchard? You know, I enjoyed that." Her silence 
was beginning to irritate him. 

"You never speak to me up there now, do you ? " 
He jerked his head towards the house. "Wouldn't 
demean yourself, would you ? Got swelled head, 
have you ? " He passed one of his unclean hands 
over her hair. "Is it painful?" 

"Don't touch me," cried Nelly. 

He stroked her hair again. "I'll touch you as 
much as I please," he said. "You know you like 
it really. Nice hair, this — " he pulled it sharply — 
"and gen-u-ine." 

Nelly sprang to her feet, but his hold on her skirt 
drew her down again. 

"Let me go." 

"I won't." 

"Let me go. How dare you?" 

"Now don't you start any rough-and-tumbles 
with me, or you'll get more than you bar- 
gained for. You wouldn't be the first I've made 
yelp." 

"What is it you want?" Nelly panted. "Why 
are you treating me like this?" 

"Oh ho! now we're coming to it. Now we're 
going to be sweetly reasonable. Thought I'd 
make you chuck your swanking." He swung her 
opposite to him, holding both her arms tightly 
above the elbows. Eye to eye he said, "I'm 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 165 

treating you like this because I know the proper 
way to treat you — see ? " 

"I don't understand." 

"Oh yes, you do, Miss Nice." 

"I do not." 

"I know what's on between you and a certain 
person — see ? I know your pretty ways when you 
think no one's looking. Oh, you're a beautiful 
pair ! " 

"You're wrong," gasped Nelly; "you're quite 
wrong." 

"I'm not an idiot; I know what I've seen." 

"It isn't what you think it is." 

"What do I think it is, Miss Snow-white 
Innocence? Give it a name." 

"I don't know what you think, and I don't care 
either," cried Nelly, stung to fury. "Let me go." 

"Shut up." His grip tightened. "Listen to 
me. What's your game ? " She was dumb, so he 
shook her lightly. 

" What are you doing it for ? What do you reckon 
to make out of it? Presents? A dear little flat in 
town — eh ? Speak up : what are you hoping for ? " 

"I refuse to understand you." 

"Well, I'll have to speak plainer, then. If 
there's any fun going I mean to share it. The 
Boss won't want you all the time. He's not the 
only one knows what he wants when he sees it. 
I don't mean to be left out. You needn't make a 
fuss. You didn't mind larking around with me 
when you first came down. You were keen enough 
on me then." 

"I was never keen on you." She loathed his 
mean expressions. 



166 THE CHORUS 

"You were." 

"I wasn't." 

"Liar!" He pinched her arms. "You kissed 
me." 

"That was a joke" — from drooping lips. 

"Well it's not the sort of joke young- ladies are 
supposed to make. Didn't your mother ever tell 
you that ? " 

"I thought you were so kind and so amusing. 
I didn't think you took it seriously," murmured 
Nelly. She was prepared to wheedle him now. 
There was nothing else for it. 

"Thought me harmless, did you? Well, what 
do you think now ? " 

"I think it's very nasty of you to behave like 
this. I didn't expect it of you, Mr. Pandolefsky. 
I'm sure you'll be ashamed of yourself by to- 
morrow." 

"Ashamed ! I like that. You to talk of shame, 
after hugging and kissing a married man under 
his wife's windows ! Look here—" he stopped his 
banter — "I'm as good as he is. I'm just as much 
a man. I guess you'll have as much fun with me, 
and more. And I won't go back on you. Straight! 
You're a little peach, Nelly, and I'm going to eat 
you." 

His moist hands slid over her, heedless of the 
sick horror in her face. 

"What do you say— Nelly ? You'll be my litde 
jo, eh ? " 

Her voice came to her at last, difficult, scarcely 
audible — 

"I'd die rather." 

"What do you mean? You're not going to be 



PANDOLEFSKY ON SEX QUESTION 167 

disagreeable, are you ? You know, if you are, 1 
may be disagreeable too." 

His hands fell to his sides. 

"I don't care what you do." 

"Oh, so you don't care what I do. We'll see 
about that by and by. Maybe your fine friends 
won't care what I do, either; or what you do, 
either? What do you think? And the Boss will 
so enjoy it! 'My love against the world,' he'll 
say, won't he ? " 

He rose to his feet, shouldering his coat. 

"Well, young Nelly, you've m-ade a nice fool 
of yourself." He was twisted with jealousy 
and malevolence. "You'll find yourself in the 
wrong boat, my lady, one day soon. There's no 
accounting for tastes, but — coo, lord — " he forced 
a laugh— "fancy being taken with old Tony 
Hamel ! That's the best thing I've heard this 
long time. That's what I call funny," He slapped 
his leg. "Excuse me laughing. I thought the old 
man was getting past that sort of thing. Must 
have had about enough of it by now, I should 
think. You don't suppose that you're the only 
one? Why, there isn't a w^oman comes near the 
place without making eyes at him. Mr. Anthony 
Hamel, the perfect gentleman ! Have a jolly time, 
and then ' good-bye, little girlie ' ! " 

His outpouring of words was exciting him. 

" ' Good-bye, little girlie,' " he chanted. " ' Sorry 
I can't invite you home to tea. Be happy. Enjoy 
yourself. Think of me kindly sometimes. Sorry 
I can't ask you in; but the missus might object.' 
You'll be outside and the door shut tight. You'll 
be in the gutter. That's your proper place. Up 



168 THE CHORUS 

and down the pavement — " he made a few steps, 
swaying his hips — "in the filthy muck. 'Good- 
evening, Charlie — ' " he mimicked a pert feminine 
voice — "and if I saw you then I wouldn't have 
you," he cried, "not for fourpence." 

He cleared his throat noisily and spat into the 
stream, then clambered up the bank and strode 
out of sight. Nelly sat quite still when he was 
gone. Her heart was thumping, her eyes were 
very dark. Presently she put on her shoes and 
stockings and went home. She never went to that 
place again. 



CHAPTER XV 

AND ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF 

Anthony's instinct was for the blindest flight. 
No girl betrayed by her lover could be more eager 
to avoid his fellows' eyes than he was. It was not 
reproach he feared so much as inquiry, inquiry that 
awakes in mankind that blind folly of confession 
from which spring all the embarrassments and dis- 
illusionments of life. He wanted to get away, and 
he could not permit himself to behave like a skunk. 
He would not own that he was tired of Nelly, or 
that, being satisfied, he had no further use for her. 
No, what appeared to him was that hitherto he had 
been stupid, he had not perceived the number and 
tediousness of the consequences of his actions. He 
had set people talking, he had behaved with 
atrocious lack of consideration, and now the best 
reparation he could make was to silence those 
tongues as soon as possible. The simplest method 
of silencing them was to get out of earshot. 

Opportunity, after its custom, presented itself. 
He received within a few days of one another 
invitations to exhibit at the International Society 
in Boston, to lecture on craftsmanship at some 
American University and to design the country 
house of Elisha T. Coonmanrigs, Junior, in the 
Adirondacks. He had been tentatively fostering the 
offshoot of his American connection for some time 

169 



170 THE CHORUS 

and behold it blossoming. Here was a chance of 
escape that was no mere excuse. It was necessary 
for him to go to America. Violently necessary. If 
he stayed he would be stimulating gossip indeed. 
He could only stay by an unusually marked prefer- 
ence for this country, and moreover he might blight 
his American offshoot for ever. The dollar is not 
accustomed to receiving snubs. 

He was not more than four minutes making up 
his mind. Things must sort themselves as best they 
could, he was going away, away, away. No boy at 
the edge of school holidays could have embraced 
freedom more eagerly. Meanwhile he was dis- 
tractedly busy. Too busy for retrospection or 
recollection or introspection or any uncomfortable 
thing. He flung himself upon the neglected pile of 
his work like an enthusiastic wave. It was glorious 
to lose himself again in the element where he was 
master. How he could work when he w-ent at it ! 
He shut himself into his studio night and day. His 
meals were sent out to him on trays. He was too 
vehemently absorbed in his work even to wince at 
the oddness of the alliance he was making — the 
alliance of desire and duty. 

Nelly knew nothing of these sudden plans. She 
did not trouble to suspect that her time of drifting 
was over. But the days were tame. The world was 
a top that had ceased singing. 

Mrs. Hamel it was who extinguished the sun. 
She asked the girls to tea with her the day that 
Anthony told her his decision. She anticipated a 
tiny pleasure. 

" He'll be going for tlie whole atilumn. Probably 
for the winter. When he goes I shall seek a change 



AND ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF 171 

of air in some civilized place, and workmen will take 
possession of this house. It's rather bothersome 
being wife to a man of genius. No sooner do I get 
used to a room than it's all made different. I never 
know what my house is like. I'm continually get- 
ting surprises, usually pleasant ones, I admit " 

the cool voice went on. She spoke as casually as if 
it were no news at all, but a fact so long accepted 
as to have ceased to be interesting— as a grand- 
mother says to a child: "Before you were born, 
my dear." 

Blackness was upon the earth. The tea-table and 
the balustrade disappeared from Nelly's eyes. She 
could hear nothing but her own heart making a dull 
tolling in her ears. She realized that she must not 
faint. She had not fainted. She heard Hilda ask- 
ing intrepidly: "When does he go?" 

A cold dawn seemed to break over the garden 
again. 

"About the middle of July. He's going first 
into the mountains. The country house has to be 
something very special. Mrs. Elisha Coonmanrigs, 
Junior — I beg her pardon — Mrs. Elisha T. Coon- 
manrigs, Junior, wants a villa impregnated with 
the life juice of nature. I learnt that phrase by 
heart. Americans amuse me." 

"I say, it does make me feel blank," said Hilda, 
"his going." 

"Oh, but he'll come back again," said Mrs. 
Hamel, smiling. 

"Of course, he'll do that," said Hilda, "it was 
myself I was thinking about. I can't tell you what 
these months with him have been to me." 

"I know he has enjoyed having you." 



172 THE CHORUS 

"I hoped my apprenticeship wasn't going to end 
so soon, but it's been the time of my life, anyway." 

"You must come and stay with us when we are 
at home again." 

"Thank you most awfully. I shall love to." 

They talked of other things. 

Tony going away. It was the stroke of a 
bludgeon. Even at the cost of pain she must break 
through the numbness that was settling upon her 
mind. She must think, she must think. No, she 
mustn't think or she would scream. She must get 
away somewhere that she could scream. She 
remembered a description Tony had given in the 
studio once of a scene he had happened on in 
Sicily. A troop train was departing and a girl was 
being left behind, and she had flung herself on 
the ground and raved and torn her clothes and 
kicked her boots off ; but when the train was out of 
sight she had risen and pinned up her hair and 
put her boots on again and walked away. How 
they had all laughed at the description of that 
scene ! O God, God, God, how was she to endure 
being alive without him ? Should she just put her 
boots on, like the Sicilian girl, and walk away? 
She felt so dazed as she walked down the hill that 
she could almost believe she was doing it. 

All night she lay in alternating torments of hope 
and of despair. "It isn't true. He would have 
told me. It can't be true." Hope would make her 
start to a sitting posture in her bed. "It is true. 
Be quiet, you fool, it is certain, certain." Despair 
was the less painful of the two. It did not set her 
straining to get to him, to clasp his knees, to 
implore him never to leave her. It pressed like a 



AND ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF 178 

stone, but it did not drive iron hooks into the 
body, tearing it asunder. "To see him. If only I 
could see him. If only he would tell me it was 
true himself." Truth, however ugly, passing his 
lips would bring consolation. Partly the thought 
of nearness to him, partly had she named it, the 
desire for that small boldness on his part, inspired 
her. She knew, she had always known, he was 
timid of publicity, but gentlemen, real gentlemen, 
were like that. 

"They don't care for larky hats," her mother 
had said, "they don't like you to be as conspicuous 
as a Catherine wheel, not really." 

She did not mind his being afraid of other 
people, but that he should be afraid of her 

Next day brought no alleviation of her misery. 
With Hilda came \^ord that the studio was too 
full for either of them. "The Boss is in great form, 
I've never seen him in such spirits. Says he's got 
to fit a year's work into a week. He's a wonder. 
Says he'll have some odds and ends for me to do 
presently." 

"Did he say anything," asked Nelly from her 
abyss, "about his going away? " 

"Oh, he'd only talk nonsense. ' For they've 
been to the sea and the terrible Zone and the hills 
of the Chankly Bore.' And he said he ought to 
have gone a month ago. I'm glad he didn't." 

"Going, really going. Wake up and think 
about it, you fool," Nelly implored herself, as if 
she were addressing a sleeping oaf. But no 
thoughts could mend it. No words of hers could 
reach him. No tears of hers could move him. 
Worse, she had none. She felt like a third person 



174 THE CHORUS 

helplessly witnessing a crime. It was like the 
nightmare in which the child is run over — or worse 
still, in which the train goes on without one. At 
night from her window in the valley she could see 
the green glare of the studio window streaming out 
uncurtained upon the summer leaves, making them 
look as if they were clipped from tin. Up there, 
mysterious as an alchemy, her destiny was being 
fashioned. Someone was going to hurt her, and 
she would not be able to prevent it. Sometimes 
his shadow crossed the light. Sometimes a door 
slammed and Pandolefsky came out on a message. 
It was something to fix her eyes there in adoration, 
it was a bright light and a holy place, but it was 
as unconcerned with her, too, as the moon. 



CHAPTER XVI 

A QUARREL 

The work, however, was getting done. Unfor- 
tunately for Anthony's peace it could not last for 
ever. It was impossible to slip away without even 
saying good-bye, and he had not meant to do 
that, had he? Or — had he? Well, that was not 
his intention now. It would be very pleasant to 
say good-bye, to hold Nelly's hands and look into 
Nelly's eyes again. Besides, all sorts of people 
were coming for farewells, it would seem strange to 
them if the green nymph wasn't there. That wasn't 
the point. It didn't matter what other people 
thought. lie wished his brain wouldn't twist out 
such contemptible ideas. Oh, let him, for any 
sake, stop worrying about things. He stretched 
his great arms until the muscles cracked. 

"When are you girls coming to make tea for 
me?" he asked Hilda. 

"Whenever you've time to be bothered with us, 
Boss." 

''We must have a farewell brew." 

Hilda conveyed the message. 

So paradise was open to Nelly again. She made 
the journey thither on the last day of June, an 
afternoon of yellow sunlight singing with bees. 
The garden borders were woven thick with flowers, 

175 



176 THE CHORUS 

red and blue, purple and tawny, wide open, bleach- 
ing in the heat. The terraces were veiled with per- 
fume. It seemed to her as if her happiness was 
about to burst into flame again ; but when she 
reached the studio it was a flame not of joy but of 
anger that burnt up in her heart. Anthony was 
surrounded with women. Their clatter and deter- 
mined laughter filled the air. They had been 
disgorged by a motor in time for lunch at The 
Height. Anthony was in high spirits, noisy, 
talkative, displaying the contents of the jewel 
presses, scattering precious stones to delighted 
cries, just as he had done for her a few months 
before. He was too absorbed to have more than a 
nod for her. She stood in the arch of the doorway 
expectant, exquisitely posed, unnoticed, frozen with 
disappointment, while the Misses Ahearn-Wylie 
praised and criticized and exclaimed and re- 
exclaimed, and were as much without shyness as 
a dog at dinner time. 

"Here's your mascot. Marigold, sapphires for 
your birth month. September, isn't it ? . . . Why 
is it wonderful for me to have remembered ? Don't 
I remember every word you ever said ? It would 
be a wonder really if I forgot. Why, look here ! " 
with pretended surprise, "they just match her eyes. 
My dear Marigold, you don't need any more sap- 
phires." He was again at the cupboard. 

"Here are the ones for a woman with red hair." 
Nelly saw the aquamarines spread broadcast. "Are 
these your favourites ? " The question he had put 
to her was now addressed to Olivia Wylie — "the 
stock question," her mind taunted him — "Just the 
thing for a green-eyed enchantress, a rather wicked 



A QUARREL 177 

enchantress of thirty. No, you mustn't wear any 
till you are thirty : thirty to thirty-five will be your 
great period." 

The red-haired girl protruded her large teeth 
among her freckles. 

"And pearls for Lydia." (Would he never finish 
making an idiot of himself?) "Beautiful cool 
pearls from the depths of the sea. This child 
should wear ear-rings. She will have immense 
distinction when she grows up." The "child," a 
lanky and ansemic dowager of eighteen, flushed to 
the square bridge of her nose. "I'm not sure that 
you oughtn't to wear turquoise," he turned to the 
eldest, who was the pretty one, of the three again. 
"You could wear them. Most women make them 
look like bits of blue china." Miss Marigold 
expressed a preference for translucent stones. 
"Yes, yes," Anthony agreed with her, "they are 
more beautiful. Turquoise just miss the jewel 
quality — how did you know that ? " He fixed his 
embarrassing eyes upon hers. "The wisdom of 
you young people is staggering. At your age I 
should have been better able to philosophize on the 
qualities of nougat and caramel than on subtle 
things like gems." Miss Wylie felt she had said 
something profoundly wise. Anthony was swim- 
ming in the sound of his own voice. "Gems! 
There is always something mysterious about them, 
some echo of strange powers of enchantment. 
Turquoise, oddly enough, is the one most endowed 
with magical qualities — yet it seems such a day- 
light stone. Perhaps that is why it is a protection 
against evil. There is so little unexpectedness 
about it. No night or twilight. Certainly in a fine 

N 



178 THE CHORUS 

gold setting it can have great freshness and charm, 
but it always seems to me the stone for luncheon 
parties and gaiety and the haunts of man." 

"Goodness, what a frivolous person you must 
think me I " 

"Not frivolous," said Anthony, with a discon- 
certing gravity. (He had forgotten that he had 
said she should wear them.) "Frank merriment 
and sweetness is never frivolous! Why, you 
all laujjh like elves ! If I had a detestable thing 
here, that you are much too cultured ever to have 
encountered, a thing called a gramophone, I should 
make you laugh into it whenever I felt dispirited 
and bored — oh, I do feel that way sometimes, I 
assure you ! — I should just set the disk whirring 
and then — hey nonny nonny, your laughter would 
come rippling ! It would be delightful for me, 
wouldn't it?" His moment's impressive gravity 
over, the noise that he praised gathered and broke 
again. Hilda, who had been facing the invasion 
with amiable fortitude, strolled to the door, and, 
squeezing Nelly's arm, slipped out. She had had 
enough of it. 

Nelly remained where she was, deadly still. All 
the fierce angers and reproaches of her miserable 
week were seething within her. A hundred bitter 
taunts and gibes were leashed in her brain to leap 
out at Anthony when she had him alone. She 
trembled with fury. Her grey eyes blazed. 

The Ahearn-Wylies were enjoying themselves. 
They were collecting impressions to compare on 
the way home. Preparing, had they known it, to 
quarrel a little as to who was most admired. They 
sat about, swung their buckled shoes, or crossed 



A QUARREL 179 

them, lounging in the big chairs, admired the view 
from the windows, pulled and poked at everything, 
asked bold questions, peeped at themselves in the 
old mirror, rolled their eyes, blushed, flashed their 
teeth in smiles to one another. Nelly considered it 
a sickening performance. To her they had as many 
claims to beauty as a bevy of dog-faced baboons in 
an ape-house. Certainly their eyes were set too 
shallow and too high ; but she was not just to 
them. 

The blue-eyed girl pulled open a door in the 
press, she was making a final round of inspection, 
and discovered the little package that contained 
Nelly's ring. 

"What's this? I'm going to peep. May I?" 
she cried in one breath, snatching it out of the 
paper, before either question could be answered. 
She held up the little sparkling rapunsel ; they 
crowded to see it. 

" How perfectly enchanting ! " " How sweet ! " 
" How lovely ! " " Who is it for ? " 

Nelly leant forward quivering. To her it was a 
living thing that they handled so thoughtlessly. 

*'Oh, that's just an experiment. Nothing very 
important," said Anthony quickly. 

"How I wish it was for me," said the boldest 
one, "can't you make me one like it? Will you ? " 

"Perhaps I will, if you very much want it." 

"My ring," wailed Nelly's thought, "he will not 
even let my ring belong to me." For the first time 
the indignity of her position stung her. She heard 
the rest of the conversation. 

"But can't I have this, if it isn't anything 
special ? " 



180 THE CHORUS 

"I'll make you a better one — with sapphires to 
match those eyes." 

"But I've taken such a fancy to this." 

"You'll like the other better." 

"Oh, shall I?" she pouted a minute. "Well, 
be sure you don't forget or I shall send Papa to 
bully you." 

She pushed Nelly's ring pettishly away. 

Soon after she and her sisters "made their 
curtsy," as they called it, and the air was free of 
their babble. And as they went Anthony, for 
the first time, noticed Nelly. 

"Why, child," he cried, holding out his arms 
to her, "where have you been hiding yourself?" 

Without answering, Nelly ran to the window 
and flung it open. She was trembling with rage. 

"Now one can breathe ! " 

"My dear Nelly!" 

"I'm not your dear Nelly." 

"My child " 

"Don't speak to me." 

She stamped her foot. 

"You absurd person, what's all this fuss about? " 
He tried to take her in his arms. 

She struggled away and faced him furiously. 

"Why did you let her touch my ring?" 

"I shall let people do as I like in here." 

"No, you shan't. I won't have it." 

"You are ridiculous ! " 

"I hate you," tlie words burst from her. 

"Nelly!" 

"Why are you going away?" 

"I'm going because 1 must." 

"Why didn't you tell me?" 



A QUARREL 181 

"What difference would that have made? I 
couldn't stay here for ever." 

"You're just sneaking away to get rid of me ! " 
"You are jealous of those silly girls." 
"You didn't think them silly when they were in 
here." 

"Oh yes, I did." 

"Why did you talk to them like that, then." 
"My good child, I shall talk just as I please." 
"I hate your humbug. You never mean a word 
that you say." 

"Look here, Nelly! Don't make scenes!" he 
was angry too. "I've had enough of it. I don't 
like it. Please control yourself. You are behaving 
ridiculously." 

"Oh, how can you talk to me like that?" 
Followed tears. In the end he had to comfort 
her. 

"You know you are the sweetest, loveliest of 
them all." 

He was not going for a week or two. 
"Let us make the most of what time we have." 
He kissed her eyes and her cheeks and her mouth 
and her chin. They were all salt w'ith her tears. 
As she went down the hill she realized that they 
had not talked of his going away at all. She had 
somehow lost sight of it. The big thing had got 
blurred and intertwined with paltry angers, 
jealousies, reproaches. What had become of all 
those moving speeches she had meant to make ? 
What had happened ? Somewhere at the back of 
her brain her mother's voice began an insistent 
iteration — how^ long ago had she heard her say 
those things? 



182 THE CHORUS 

"Don't reproach a man. Don't cry at him. 
Don't show him your temper. He'll only con- 
gratulate himself when it's all over, and it'll be 
over quicker." 

They were not much good at taking advice, her 
mother and she. 



CHAPTER XVII 

MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 

She tried to put the parting from her mind. She 
resumed her old relations with Tony with the added 
intimacy that a quarrel gives. They had now seen 
one another free of the restraint of politeness and 
of the pretence that all was well. Anthony had 
kissed her face distorted with crying, and she had 
declared her right to be angry with him. Now she 
was almost too happy. The thought of his going 
still stabbed at her, but she was hidden deep and 
shielded by his caresses. 

She was always at the studio in those last days. 
She was quite scared at the resolute way he con- 
trived to keep people away. Hilda he persuaded to 
work out a scheme for redecorating the drawing- 
room. He told her she must spend a lot of time 
there to let the proportions "soak in" and inspire 
her. If he liked her design it should be carried out 
that autumn — "There's glory for you." Pan- 
dolefsky was simply bidden "go and find some- 
thing to do." 

Anthony was drifting just as Nelly had drifted. 
The fact that so soon he would be out of it all made 
him careless. He was going to permit these days 
as many hours of honey as he could. It was not 
pure selfishness. It was the only mercv he could 

183 



184 THE CHORUS 

show the girl now. Then what would be hers to 
regret when he was gone would be happiness and 
not bitterness of heart. Besides, when he was with 
Nelly he loved her to distraction. Whatever way- 
he chose to justify himself when she was not there, 
when she was near his loving w-as its own justifica- 
tion. He would sit beside her in the window seat 
and wish they were in a boat on some wide river 
together, and while his mind was filled with sensu- 
ous thoughts he would listen to her soft voice, 
speaking her simple, trivial longings and ambi- 
tions, speaking in time to the beat of his thoughts. 

"Sometimes I want motors and diamonds and a 
big house and servants, so that I could go and make 
all the people who don't like me envious. I should 
go and drive slowly past their stupid old doors and 
know that inside they were gnashing their teeth 
with fury. But I shouldn't really like that. I'd 
feel it was too much for me. But I should like a 
few pretty things. Frocks and silk petticoats and 
smart shoes like other girls have. And a little, 
little house with great big window-boxes full of 
pink geraniums. And one old servant to mend me 
and keep me tidy." 

Anthony kissing her hand, the back and the palm 
and each finger in turn, asked — 

"And who's to give you those little things?" 

"Ah, someone I love." 

"What about the nice hump-backed gentleman 
you were going to marry ? " 

"Oh, I'm not going to marry him now." 

"Why not, Nellie?" 

"You know why not." 

"Ah, but tell me!" 



MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 185 

She told him. 

He thought, "Poor little love, if I've made you 
resolve against that I'm not altogether a brute." 

"And what sort of fellow is to give you the little 
house with the window-boxes?" 

"Nobody ever will, Tony." 

"Sure?" 

She shook a mournful head. "Sure." 

"Shall I?" 

She thought of what Pandolefsky had said to 
her. 

"You don't want to, do you?" 

He reproached himself for having made her love 
him. 

" I shall only have brought you unhappiness, 
Nelly." 

"Oh, don't say that!" She took his face be- 
tween her hands. "Don't say that. I can't bear 
you to think that. You've made me happier than 
anyone in the world." 

" Darling, then why are there tears in your 
eyes ? " 

"I'm so happy, Tony. I can't bear it all to end. 
Ah, why must it end?" 

He studied her. 

"Do you think, Nell, if you were with me always 
you would always be happy ? " 

She raised her mouth to his. 

"Ah, Nelly, you love me too much," he said. 

Every day he determined to be kind to her, and 
yet every day he found himself provoking her. 
" How much would you do for me ? " 

"Anything at all, Tony?" 

"I don't think you love me really." 



186 THE CHORUS 

"You know, you know I do." 

Or he would find himself wanting to hurt her, to 
tease and torment her. 

"You know that I am behaving disgracefully?" 

"Tony, that's rubbish. You couldn't do any- 
thing wrong." 

"Nelly, do you ever think what you are doing?" 

"Indeed I do, often." 

" What makes you so reckless, then ? " 

"Am I reckless? Don't other people love one 
another like this ? " 

"You angel." He kissed her hand. 

"Don't they, Tony?" 

"Not conventional young women, dear." 

"Oh, Tony," she was swept with grief; "I 
thought I was loving you the proper way." 

"Ah, golden heart. What I lose in leaving 
you," he thought, and — 

"Dearest, I wish I could make you stop loving 
me," he said. 

"You couldn't, Tony, you couldn't. It isn't in 
your power." 

That comforted him a little. It wasn't in his 
power. But he wished aloud sometimes that he 
were more of a blackguard so that he wouldn't mind 
being one. 

"What do you find to love in me? I've been a 
cad ever since you knew me ? How can you love 
a cad, Nelly?" 

She would praise him. 

"I wish you would criticize me sometimes, 
Nelly." 

"Oh, Tony," she said, with her old naivete, 
"that makes me so unhappy." 



MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 187 

Yet after ev^ery happy hour the parting had crept 
nearer. It gave Nelly a sense of being stalked. 
She was conscious of an ever watchful grief await- 
ing its opportunity. There seemed no moment 
appropriate to voicing her despair, none in which 
to arouse the emotional crisis which alone, she 
instinctively knew, could save her. 

As once before, it was common circumstance 
that came to her aid. The Height became again 
packed with visitors. There was never a tranquil 
hour in the pale sun-flooded studio. For three 
days she never caught sight of him alone, and then 
one afternoon as she opened the little iron gate she 
found him standing beside it. 

" I say, when am I ever going to see you alone ? 
I've so many things to say." 

"Have you. Boss? I thought you only had to 
say ' good-bye.' " She cursed herself for her 
mechanical parrying. 

"Well, you might say 'good-bye' nicely any- 
how, Nelly." 

"Tony, there are heaps of things I want to say 
too, really." Thank God, she had forced the words 
out. "When can I see you — really, reallv 
alone?" 

Again the maddening desire to evade him 
entangled her. "My mother used to say," her 
voice was between tears and laughter, "that the 
best place for a private interview was an island 
in Piccadilly Circus at twelve noon, but no one 
would ever accept that as a rendezvous." 

"Nelly, stop joking." ("Oh, he is in earnest," 
she thought, "I shall not have to make things 
happen.") "Couldn't you come up to the studio 



188 THE CHORUS 

one night when I'm " — he did not falter at the word 
—"busy. We shan't be disturbed. I'll give Pan- 
dolefsky a night off. He's sure to want a racket 
by this time. When you see my light you'll know 
I'm alone. Will you come ? " 

"But how can I get away, Boss?" 

"Can't you climb out of the window? You see 
I must speak to you." 

Oh, that emphatic speak. Of course, it was clear 
that she must come. 

A soft night lapped in mist with stars showing 
only at the height of the sky, and the green-white 
star of the studio dazzling among the branches — 
Nelly locked her door and put the key in her pocket, 
went to her window and leaned out. She had not 
had much chance of reconnoitring the place where 
she was to climb. It might be simpler to risk un- 
barring the door ; but the noisy stairs made a 
barrier. Suppose she wakened the fowls and they 
all started to crow ! What a good thing Mrs. 
Elkins kept no dog. What if Hilda wanted her 
for anything during the night and came to the 
bedroom door and found it locked, and could get 
no answer, and roused the house, and sent for the 
police or the doctor from Otterbridge? But if she 
stopped to consider all the possible unpleasantnesses 
she would do nothing at all. Very cautiously she 
climbed on to the window-sill. It looked an un- 
commonly long way to the ground. Crouching 
she turned her face to the room and took a firm 
grip of the inner ledge. Bending forward she 
stretched her legs timorously into space, then 
downwards so that her toes grated against the wall. 
She was more afraid of making a noise than of 



MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 189 

falling. Slowly she lowered herself till her body 
hung at full stretch. Her toes tingled with anxiety 
for the ledge above the sitting-room window, and 
at last they had found it a few inches higher up the 
wall than she had supposed. Next to grip the 
outer sill and feel for the sill of the sitting-room, 
there was no going back now. "This would be a 
silly way to kill myself. Suppose I really do ? " 
she thought. The stones grazed her hands. She 
must drop, to reach the sill, almost a foot, the rest 
was easy. Feeling sick she let go her hold. Her 
feet had found the sill, her hands the ledge at the 
top of the window, one yard more and with trem- 
bling knees she was on the ground. Gracious, how 
she was sweating, and how the palms of her hands 
did smart ! Moving in the shadows she set off up 
the hill to the studio. 

Anthony was waiting for her just at the other 
side of the whispering trees. Half a mile of dark 
road, a little gate that must not clang, a steep path 
and bushes that brushed her face with dewy leaves 
and suddenly the studio a blaze of light just above 
her head, sooner than she had expected it. In a 
moment she had found the shelter of the doorway, 
and her fingers drummed a tattoo upon it — up and 
down they ran scurrying like frightened mice. 
Silently the door was opened, she was engulphed 
in brightness and the smell of homespun and 
tobacco. He fastened the door, holding her round 
the shoulders with one arm as he did so, threw his 
cigarette at the furnace, and stooping pressed his 
warm cheek against her cold one. 

"Thank you for coming. I hardly dared to 
expect you." 



190 THE CHORUS 

As usual she had been ready to ^ive more than 
he demanded. She said — 

"I very nearly didn't come, but once I'd started 

I couldn't go back. Look what the wall did to me." 

"Oh, the poor little hands." He put her into 

the big chair. "And now tell me what you wanted 

to see me about ? " 

" It was you that wanted to see me ! " 

"Was it? But I always want to see you. Aren't 
you a beautiful Nelly, tell me, aren't you?" 

Sitting on the arm of the chair with her head 
against his shoulder, he stroked her neck. 

"Tony, dear, I want to think." 

"Don't think, my Nelly. Forget everything. 
Just remember that you are here with me." 

"Oh, Tony, when you touch me I get so con- 
fused I can't say anything I want to. x^nd I can't 
stay long." 

"Suppose I keep you?" 

"Ah, my dear, morning would come just the 
same." 

"Don't talk for a little while. Let me love you." 

"No, you've got to listen to me. Please, Tony." 

He released her, and holding her hand bent his 
gaze intently on each finger in turn. 

"Well," he said. 

"Tony, you are going away." 

His head still bent — 

"I have to, Nelly." 

" Why have you to ? " 

"Dear child, we can't do anything for ever." 

"Why can't we?" 

"Because— well, that's the way of it." 

"You mean you've got tired of me." 



MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 191 

He swung round to her. 

"Nelly, I haven't. I swear to you I haven't." 

"What is it, then?" 

"My dear, we couldn't go on like this. It isn't 
fair to you." 

"I don't mind." 

"But I mind, Nelly." 

She drew her hand away from him and clenching 
her fists beneath her chin leant forward. 

"What is fair to me, Tony?" she asked. He 
dropped to her feet and put his face upon her knees. 

"What a brute, what a selfish brute I have been. 
Nelly, forgive me." 

For a moment she longed to seize the splendid 
shoulders and shake them. 

"I'm not asking anything unreasonable," she 
went on gently. "Only I can't — I can't," her voice 
began to shake and he began to kiss her knees — 
"I can't live without you, Tony." 

"My poor child, my sweetest." 

She bent her lips to his thick hair. 

"Why must you leave me, Tony, why, why ? " 

"My poor beloved, isn't it the only thing?" 

"Is it the only thing, Tony? Oh, don't think 
about being selfish," she cried, knowing he was 
about to reproach himself again. "Oh, don't think 
about being selfish. Think what is going to 
happen to me. You can't go away and not take 
me with you." 

"My child, it's impossible." 

"Then you are going to get away from me." 

"I'm not, I'm not." 

"Yes, you are. Oh, Tony, forget about missing 
me and all that sort of thing. I want to be with 



192 THE CHORUS 

you. I want to go with you. I can't stay with- 
out you. I should kill myself. Oh, Tony, listen," 
she dragged him into her arms and clasped him 
tightly. "I'm not like other girls. I shouldn't 
ever trouble you. Only I can't live unless I have 
you sometimes. My Tony, I haven't anything to 
lose. There isn't anyone to care what becomes of 
me. No one need ever know. I'd keep your secret 
so well, Tony. I'd be such good company. I 
can't be left behind now, Tony, I want you too 
badly. All my people are like that — if we want 
anything we must have it — we must have what 
we've set our hearts on, Tony. If you don't take 
me I shall kill myself." 

She was crying now soft tears that did not mar 
her beauty. 

"If I only dared," said Anthony. 

"You will, you will. Think what fun we'd have 
just the two of us together, Tony. You can't 
refuse me, Tony, when I love you so much." 

"My dear, I mustn't let you." 

"Mustn't you?" 

Smiling she held him from her, her mouth pro- 
vokingly near his. 

"Say 'yes.'" 

It was "yes." 

Afterwards she told him : " I was so afraid you 
were going to be horrid. It's queer, Tony, but I 
wouldn't mind the whole world knowing you loved 
me, but I couldn't bear to know in my own heart 
that you didn't. I'd be so ashamed of that I think 
I'd die." 

"My Nelly, you are all mine now. There's 
nobody but you in the world." 



MOVES TOWARDS A CLIMAX 193 

"My Tony, how solemn you are." 

"When I first kissed you, you cried. Do you 
remember, Nelly ? " 

"That was because I was happy. You've always 
made me happy, but now I'm too excited to cry. 
To have you for a holiday ! " 

"That's it, Nelly. We'll have a holiday to- 
gether," he cried, embracing her. "Oh, my love, 
what joy it will be. I feel like a boy, Nelly. I 
want to throw up my cap and shout." 

They began to talk of the journey. Of course, 
America was out of the question. 

"Well, the world was a pretty good place before 
Columbus was born." They would go to Paris 
first, of course, perhaps to Moscow, "All golden 
spires and domes and not a damned tourist any- 
where," or along the Mediterranean to Constan- 
tinople, or to Corsica. He had always wanted 
to see Corsica. How they would bask in the 
sun ! 

"I shall have to put my hair up," said Nelly 
the practical. "And where shall I meet you, 
Tony?" 

"I shall carry you all the way in my arms ! " 
"Tony, be sensible. You know we'll have to 
catch trains like other people." 

"Then I suppose we'd better make for the nine 
o'clock boat train from Charing Cross on Thursday 
week. We'll go by Calais. The earlier we get 
off the better." 

"I think I'd better get away and stay in town, 
hadn't I? People will notice so if we leave here 
together." 
He frowned for a moment. That word "people " 
o 



194 THE CHORUS 

it brought back all the clamorous sniall difficulties 
with which he was beset. 

"I wish we could just spread wings and fly." 

"But we can't, Tony; and, Tony," it was a 
difficult matter to suggest this, "I shall want a 
few things for the journey, you know." 

Of course she would. Anthony would not have 
dared hint it for the world. 

"How much will you want. A hundred 
pounds? " 

A hundred ! It was fabulous ! Since she was 
old enough to do her own spending she had never 
had more than ten pounds in her hand at a time. 
She would take only fifty. 

"I'll have the notes for you to-morrow." 

Money spoilt the thing for him a little, for her 
it sealed the bargain. 

"My Anthony," her arms shut out his thoughts. 
They lay in the dark and talked of what they would 
do and see, until the dawn came in and put a white 
line on Anthony's profile. Before she went they 
found the ring again, and slung it round her neck 
on the ribbon out of her chemise. 

"Good-bye, my sweet. Soon we'll have no more 
partings." 

Oh, how cold the morning air ! 

Down at Elkins's the ducks were just stirring. 
Elkins himself had unbarred the door and was 
raking the kitchen fire. He was a model husband. 
Covered by the noise Nelly regained her room. 
She flung herself all dressed upon the bed. Oof — 
but she was sleepy. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

NELLY HAYES ORDERS HER TROUSSEAU 

But if Anthony and Nelly were making plans, 
gossip was busy too. The news of Anthony's 
departure was hailed by everyone as a sign that 
Mrs. Hamel had put her foot down. It was ad- 
mitted that what thoughts she herself had were 
not easy to guess. She bestirred herself no more 
than usual ; her voice was tranquil, her delicate 
profile cold as glass. No one heard her say a word 
on the subject, but, of course, she knew. After 
all, there was no mistaking it. 

"One needn't adopt the most sinister interpreta- 
tion, but it is high time one of them went away. 
I wish Erica would talk a little. I don't like to 
see her so proud; she'll suffer more." 

"Erica is hardly the sort of person who confides 
her domestic afflictions to the postman on the door- 
mat," but they thought she might afford a little 
more excitement to her friends. 

Mrs. Hamel, polishing her nails among her 
embroidered bed-hangings, was neither secretive 
nor suffering. Proud she was, but passively; not 
in grim earnest, as her friends supposed. She had 
not observed Nelly and her husband chiefly because 
she would have considered such things beneath her 
notice; really, perhaps, because she was seldom in 

195 



196 THE CHORUS 

any place where they were. She had a notion that 
Anthony was better when he was busy, and she 
was glad that he would be so busy in America. 
She would be lonely without him, but hardly more 
lonely than she was with him. Meanwhile they 
might as well be busy with a farewell garden-party 
and a little dinner. She did not think they had 
been quite friendly enough to the local people. 
She would want sociable neighbours when she 
returned in the autumn and rain and darkening 
days kept her friends in town, it would be nice to 
have a little bridge, even if one could not have a 
proper house-party. It would not matter trampling 
the lawns either now, as they would have so long 
to recover. Tennis and ices and summer dresses 
were always enjoyable. She fancied the fine 
weather would hold. The invitations were issued. 

The garden-party was an unpleasant surprise for 
Nelly. That it should be on the Wednesday when 
Anthony should be speeding to her arms seemed 
to signify more than a mere coincidence. 

"Oh, Hilda, I was going to tell you, I can't stay 
for it," she said when the invitation reached 
Elkins's. "I have to go up to town." 

"That's a sudden resolve, isn't it?" cried Hilda 
in surprise. "What's the hurry?" 

"Well," said Nelly weakly, "I haven't a frock." 

"You can wear one of mine. Do stay; but of 
course you will. The party will be great fun." 

"I don't think I ought to, Hilda." 

There were so many things she must do : her 
darling clothes to try on ; and she must be sure of 
getting away. 

"Have you heard from your mother, Nelly?" 



NELLY ORDERS HER TROUSSEAU 197 

Hilda was puzzled. She had expected Nelly to 
rejoice at the garden-party. 

"Yes," said Nelly. 

Hilda looked at her doubtfully. Nelly's eyes 
met hers with a wilful stubbornness. Hilda began 
to feel w^orried. 

Nelly had been ordering her clothes that after- 
noon. She had sat on a stool in the sour-smelling 
post-office at Otterbridge while the young lady with 
the paper cuffs got her number. She was going 
to order her things from a shop near Baker Street. 
Its owner had been her mother's maid at one time 
and had known vicissitudes. Now she owned a 
little shop, with three hats and two blouses in the 
window. 

" Is that Miss Cluer ? Oh, could I speak to her ? " 

She held the line. 

"Is that you, Minnie? I'm Miss Hayes. You 
remember me, don't you ? I want a whole lot of 
things. Do write them down. I'll send the money 
by registered letter immediately. Will you get me 
a trunk and pack it ? " 

"Are you getting married, Miss Hayes?" Miss 
Cluer's genteel voice came thin over the telephone. 

"Why, yes," said Nelly, "I suppose I am." 

"You haven't wasted much time," said Miss 
Cluer a trifle less genteelly. 

"I suppose not," said Nelly, laughing. 

" I beg your pardon ? " 

" I said I suppose not." 

"How much did you wish to spend?" 

"Not more than fifty pounds." 

"I suppose you only want to buy the under- 
clothing, then ? " 



198 THE CHORUS 

Nelly blushed in the box. 

" I want to buy everything : something of every- 
thing. Just enough for the journey." (She had 
an inspiration.) "I shall be getting most of my 
things in Paris." 

Miss Cluer was now respectful. She would read 
through the lists. 

"Chemise nine and eleven, camisole five and 
eleven, nightgown thirteen and eleven, knickers 
seven and eleven. Or we have a better quality. 
Chemise twelve and eleven, knickers nine and 
eleven, camisole seven and eleven, nightgown 
eighteen and eleven. American shape, short 
sleeves. Yes, these are very pretty. Hand-made, 
of course, trimmed good val edging and insertions. 
Or you can have cluny edging or torchon ; they 
come dearer. The real lace, you know. Or we 
have the plain embroidered ones." The list again. 
How Nelly longed to be rummaging in the shop 
herself ! It took away all enjoyment, this dull 
business of mouth and ear. Finally she arranged, 
as that lady had intended, to trust Miss Cluer to 
choose her something pretty. 

They went on to stockings. 

"We can do you a reliable spun silk at four and 
six, or the pure silk at seven and eleven." 

They left that question to Miss Cluer, too. It 
would depend on what they had over. 

Corsets then. "Oh, I can never fit on a corset 
by telephone I " 

"If you will tell me the make and size you are 

wearing at present " Miss Cluer's patient voice. 

The list again : through " Daphne and Silver 
Swan," through coutillc and broche and four sus- 



NELLY ORDERS HER TROUSSEAU 199 

penders and six suspenders. Nelly, in her mind's 
eye, could see Miss Cluer holding them against 
her own taut figure. In the end that, too, was left 
to Miss Cluer. Life was hardly worth living. 

Then about the travelling clothes. Miss Cluer 
supposed she would wear blue? Brides usually 
did. 

"Well, I don't want to," said Nelly. 

"Grey, then," said Miss Cluer; "it will have to 
be grey. We have some very nice little three-piece 
suits in silk serge. I dare say we could alter one 
of those to fit you — they work out at seven guineas. 
And a hat ? " 

"Can't I wear a bonnet?" asked Nelly. 

They didn't want, after all, or did they, to be 
a trifle — well, theatrical-looking? suggested Miss 
Cluer. Of course, if Miss Hayes particularly 

wanted a bonnet Nelly had particularly wanted 

a bonnet. 

"I don't see how I can get a hat to suit me 
without trying it on." 

"Oh, with your hair you can wear anything. 
Miss Hayes. I only wish I had you for the 
millinery branch," said Miss Cluer. "Of course, 
you have put your hair up ? " 

"Oh yes — at least, it will be up by then." 

Then there was a petticoat, and shoes, and a silk 
wrapper, and gloves, and a cloak for the boat. 

"And oh. Miss Cluer, I must have a dressing-bag 
of some kind to put the things in " 

In the end they had just enough chosen for the 
journey, with a change of linen, and her bill came 
to forty-seven pounds nine shillings. 

Miss Cluer congratulated her on its moderation. 



200 THE CHORUS 

Would she have pink or blue ribbons in her 
underclothing- ? 

Very pale blue, Nelly instructed her. 

And how would she like them marked — with the 
full name or initials? 

Oh, that would not matter. 

No extra charge for marking them. 

Nelly thanked her, but that would be "all right," 

She was vexed with herself for being sensitive 
to such a question. She would try and get round 
on Tuesday or \\^ednesday to see the things. If 
not, would Miss Cluer have them ready for her 
before eight on Thursday? It was frightfully 
important. Well, really, what a very unusual 
request ! The shop did not open until ten o'clock. 
Miss Cluer herself never breakfasted before nine. 

"Really, Miss Hayes, it is out of the question." 

Well, Nelly must try and fetch them on Wednes- 
day at latest. 

Bother and blast ! That old shark Minnie Cluer 
had grown too big for her boots. Going to sell 
her a lot of antediluvian stuff out of stock, too. 
Well, Nelly would know what to say w-hen she 
saw her. 

She bought postal orders for two pounds and 
nine shillings, added them to her five-pound notes, 
and dispatched them to Baker Street. No use 
expecting Minnie Cluer to start any work for her 
till she'd spotted the cash with her own eye. 
Nelly's mother had often said that IMinnie Cluer 
had an eye you could hammer a nail on. Nelly 
pushed the letter through the letter-box. 

So that was settled. She was glad, but she could 
not believe it quite real. She could not see herself 



NELLY ORDERS HER TROUSSEAU 201 

clear and triumphant in those new clothes. Her 
old brown skirt, frayed round the tail, seemed 
to belong to her as nearly as her skin. Was it 
possible to make one step and leave poverty and 
squalor and loneliness and uncertainty behind for 
ever ? She was going to do that, her brain told 
her so, but something else in her could not respond 
to the good news. She was like a man with a 
winning lottery ticket who suspects there must be 
some mistake. She did not feel happy. She had 
a premonition of failure. Success could not be so 
easy of attainment as this, or there would be no 
misery in the world. Things had gone too well of 
late. The garden-party came upon her now with 
a disagreeable jerk. If she had to stay for that her 
plans had all gone to crimini. She braced herself 
to meet Hilda's interrogation. 

That young woman assumed a judicial air. 

"Well, Nelly, is it that you've heard from your 
mother, which is very important, or is it that you 
haven't a frock, which isn't important at all?" 

"It's both," said Nelly, pouting at this scrutiny. 
"Really I can't stay, Hilda." 

Doubts that had been nibbling at Hilda's peace 
for a long while, had she admitted their existence, 
seized on her now with a sharp pang. 

"What's up, Nelly?" she asked, feeling cold 
with unnamed anxiety. "What's gone wrong 
lately ? " 

"Nothing, Hilda, nothing." Nelly shook her 
head. "Really nothing." 

" Haven't you been happy ? Aren't you happy ? " 

Nelly sprang to her feet. After all, it was easy 
to get round old Hilda. 



202 THE CHORUS 

"You dearest stupid," she cried, clasping her in 
her arms, "of course I've been happy: happier 
than ever I've been in my life." 

Hilda kissed her and disengaged herself. She 
was not altogether pleased with that affectionate 
term "stupid." She began to fear that it suited her 
too well. 



CHAPTER XIX 

A VULGAR ROW — HILDA FORGETS THAT IT IS NOT 
POSSIBLE TO MAKE A SOW's EAR OUT OF A SILK 
PURSE 

Hilda, lacerated with curiosity, walked about 
the garden of The Height. She no longer felt the 
world a good place to be in. She no longer felt 
satisfied with her work, with her master, with her 
future, with her hitherto so admirable achievements. 
The bell of her self-sufficiency was cracked. What 
was it, this something that was on foot behind her, 
that turned when she turned, dodged when she 
dodged ? Why could not her thoughts penetrate 
at once to the centre of the mystery ? Stupid. 
That was what Nelly had said. Hilda began to 
wonder if B.A.'s and artistic accomplishments were 
cleverness after all. If they were not — why, then 
every nimble woman with tilted hat from Bayswaler 
to Kensington was cleverer than she. She pushed 
back her hair and turned into the dappled shadow 
of the orchard. Her young face was innocent as 
Mother Eve's among the apple stems. Choosing 
his moment, Mr. Pandolefsky came to join her. 

"'In maiden meditation fancy free,'" was his 
greeting from behind. 

"Oh, Mr. Pandolefsky," was hers. 

"Not many more of these pleasant days for us to 
spend together," said he. 

203 



204 THE CHORUS 

"No, indeed," said Hilda. It had not struck her 
that Pandolefsky had been part of the pleasure. 

"I've some important news I think you ought to 
hear, Miss Concannon." 

" Oh, have you ? " said Hilda. 

"Of course you may know it already. I may be 
a day or two after the fair. Am I right ? " 

"I don't know- quite what you mean," said Hilda. 

"It's not exactly good news, Miss Concannon. I 
can't be certain if I ought to tell you. It concerns 
another person altogether. I might say another 
person's welfare " 

Hilda's heart leaped. She was to learn after all. 
The mystery was about to be solved. Thirsty with 
eagerness, she assumed her most snubbing manner. 

"If it concerns someone in whose welfare I am 
interested," she said grandly, "I think I should 
hear it." 

Pandolefsky licked his lips. 

There was not much of Nelly's secret that he had 
missed — only that intangible tenderness of hers that 
lifted all her actions from the squalid to — well, to 
some other thing. 

"I don't know if I've done right, coming to you 
about it, Miss Concannon. I've been looking for 
an opportunity these last few days. But it seemed 
to be coming to a head, Miss Concannon, and I 
wouldn't like anything to happen that we might be 
sorry for. Perhaps I should have spoken to Mrs. 
Hamel about it; but it seems such a pity to make 
her unhappy, Miss Concannon." 

"Someone's got to be unhappy," said Hilda 
grimly. "Please don't mention this to anybody 
else." 



A VULGAR ROW 205 

"No fear of that, Miss Concannon." 

Hilda wanted to scream at him : "And don't call 
me * Miss Concannon ' every other second." 

Instead she said, "It may not be so serious as 
you think." 

"It may not. I dare say the Boss knows his own 
business best. But it seems such a pity." He dwelt 
on the pity of it. "She's very flighty, but such a 
taking- little thing. I couldn't help kissing her 
myself when she first came here," 

He spoke as if his discovery of the girl's less 
noble qualities had quenched his flame. 

Hilda cut short his reminiscences. 

She felt as if she had been slapped in the face. 
This, then, was the fact to which her eyes had been 
blinded. Fierce anger woke in her. She knew only 
that she must get at Nelly and blaze the knowledge 
at her. How dared the girl I how dared she ! Her 
baseness was a humiliation. How could she play 
such a vile, bestial game. She stumbled down the 
hill to Elkins's. Her anger could hardly contain 
itself. She wanted to rail and strike things. She 
was too fierce to be surprised at herself. 

At Elkins's she found Nelly trying to read a 
novel in the sitting-room. 

"Hello, what's up?" the girl asked seeing 
Hilda's furious face. 

Hilda shut the door, then she turned, trembling ; 
she was going, she thought, to be very dignified. 

"Nelly," she said, "Pandolefsky has been talking 
about you." 

"I don't care. Let him talk," said Nelly, with 
staccato jauntiness. She shut her book and rose 
uneasily from her chair. 



206 THE CHORUS 

"He's a hateful creature. I always told you he 

was. He talks as if " Hilda paused, her anger 

leaping. " He says that you Oh, how am I to 

tell you what he says ? " 

Nelly stood by the table, fingering the cloth. 
She did not want to hear what Pandolefsky had 
said. She did not want to have this disagreeable 
talk with Hilda. She was absurdly like a naughty 
child caught stealing biscuits. 

"Can't you guess what he says?" 

"Don't want to," the golden head was shaken. 

"Stop fooling, Nelly," Hilda suddenly shouted 
at her. "Don't you see I know?" 

"Know what? " said Nelly with feeble effrontery. 

"I know what has been happening all this time. 
You've been letting Mr. Hamel make love to you." 

Nelly laughed shakily. "That's all right." 

"What do you mean by ' that's all right ' ? Do 
you mean it's true ? " 

"Well, what if it is?" 

"What if it is? Nelly, it's outrageous." 

"I don't see that it matters to you." 

Hilda ignored that remark, it was too prepos- 
terous; of course the thing mattered to her — mat- 
tered tremendously, or she would not feel so furious 
about it. 

"Pandolefsky says you've been kissing him." 

"Kissing him ! " 

"Kissing Mr. Hamel. Have you been letting 
him kiss you, Nelly ? " 

Hilda's cheeks were hot with blushes. It was not 
she who had been misbehaving, and yet she felt the 
humiliation of it. 



A VULGAR ROW 207 

"Only in the studio," said Nelly, as if that were 
an extenuating circumstance. 

Hilda was shocked, so she told herself, by the 
brazen unconcern of this avowal, but what seethed 
within her was a deeper feeling— resentment at 
being hoodwinked, the bitterness of being "left 
out"; above all, the quick pain and jealousy 
that Anthony, whom she admired so much, should 
so single out another. She had always believed 
in passionate love, but this was nothing but 
vileness. She forgot her modern authors, and 
repeated a maxim from the copy book for young 
ladies. 

"No nice girl would let a man kiss her unless 
they were engaged." 

"Such rot. Such absolute rot. What do you 
know about it ? " 

"Not very much, I'm thankful to say," said 
Hilda. 

Nelly laughed an irritating laugh. 

"I am thankful to say it," cried Hilda. 

"There's no harm in it," said Nelly, sulking 
again. 

"Harm ! But Mr. Hamel is married." 

"You make me laugh," said Nelly savagely. 

"What about, Mrs. Hamel? What would she 
think ? " 

"She won't care," said Nelly quickly; "she won't 
know." 

"That makes it beneath contempt. It's so 
dishonourable." 

"It can't hurt her. She won't know. Why 
should she have everything ? " 



208 THE CHORUS 

"Don't talk so wickedly and stupidly! You've 
got to face the facts." 

"Oh, Lord, have mercy upon us! " 

"Stop being so silly. You are making a 
desperate fool of yourself." 

"I can manage my own affairs, thank you. I 
don't want your advice. When I do I'll ask 
for it." 

She flounced to the door. 

"Stand still and listen, will you? Pandolefsky 
told me something else. He says you have actually 
been planning to go away with Mr. Hamel." 

"Pandolefsky knows a lot ! " 

"Nelly, you shall talk about it. Think what you 
are doing. Has he promised to marry you ? " 

"Marry me!" Nelly broke into a laugh. 
"Marry me! You little sea-green gooseberry! 
Marry me, my heavenly dear ! " 

"And you are going away with him, all the 
same ? " 

"I didn't say so." 

"Are you going? " 

"I won't be bossed by you." 

"Are you going? " 

"I shan't tell you." 

" Is it to meet him you are going back to Town ? " 

"I shan't tell you." 

" Did you get a letter from vour mother ? " 

"Yes, I did." 

"I don't believe you." 

"Very well; I'm lying." 

"Yes, you are. Who else have you been 
kissing ? " 



A VULGAR ROW 209 

"Find out!" 

" I mean to. Did you kiss Pandolefsky ? " 

"You'd better ask him." 

"Oh, it's too disgusting- ! " 

"There was no harm in it." 

Loathing drenched Hilda. 

" He's such a beast ! " 

"Well, if he's such a beast, \Yhy were you so 
keen to listen to him ? " 

It was Hilda's turn to be reproved, but Nelly 
could not maintain her advantage. 

"And I kissed Teddie Armour, too; and you 
can't say he's a beast." 

Hilda's mind was in confusion. 

"But you refused to marry him ? " 

"That wasn't a reason for being disagreeable, 
was it ? " 

(Disagree&ble 1 Must one, for politeness' sake, 
kiss all the men one met?) 

"And dear Stevie." 

" Steven Young ?" Hilda felt the pang of jealousy 
again. She had always regarded him as particu- 
larly her friend. 

"Oh, they're all alike! He isn't a paragon." 

Then, seeing the pain in Hilda's face, her good- 
nature added — 

"But he only kissed my hand." 

"I knew he was different," cried Hilda. 

"Yes; he's a bit of a prig." 

Hilda could have strangled her. 

"Well, you are mighty pleased with yourself," 
she said; "but let me tell you all this is going to 
stop. There will be no more of this sort of thing. 
p 



210 THE CHORUS 

I ought to have taken better care of you. You 
will stay for the party and go up to town with me 
when I go." 

"You've no right to interfere." 

"Yes, I have. Anyone has. I'm not going to 
let you make a fool of yourself." 

"You don't know what you're talking about." - 

"Yes, I do." 

"Go and talk to Tony Hamel, then. Tell him 
he's a naughty boy." 

"For a very little, I'd go and tell Mrs. Hamel." 

"Tell away, Miss Busybody. You'll see how 
she likes it." 

"You'll see how everyone likes it. Understand 
me, Nelly : if you don't behave yourself I'll tell 
Mrs. Hamel the whole story. Will you stay now, 
or won't you ? " 

Nelly measured her. There was nothing to be 
gained by prolonging the quarrel. She would find 
a way out presently. 

"Will you stay?" 

"I will." 

They hated each other. 

Hilda, bright-eyed, picked up a book and pre- 
tended to read — pretended to herself, too, that she 
was reading with great composure. She had put 
her foot down and ended the whole infamous and 
silly business. From time to time she shook a 
little from the force of her indignation. Not one 
corner of the world but must be smirched and 
filthied with these transitory passions. Why 
couldn't people have self-control? It made one 
hate all love, this travesty of it. Was all freedom 



A VULGAR ROW 211 

and companionship and equality between men and 
women to be a disguise for the secret wallowings 
of beasts ? It was an outrage on fineness and sense 
and decency. Mrs. Ilamel was quite right. It was 
a mistake to pick up casual acquaintances. Nelly 
had not one of the ideas that made life tolerable 
for the rest of them. She was a female Pando- 
lefsky. She was uncivilized. She had spoilt 
everything. If they had prepared to go away 
openly together she could have admired them, she 
lied to herself. She would not then have felt the 
same torment of anger. It was this furtive lechery 
— like an escaped bitch. It degraded all woman- 
hood. All she could do now was to save the girl 
from herself. Clearly she was lost to all sense of 
shame. Mrs. Hamel was quite right : you could 
not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The 
most one could do was to insist upon decency. 
Mrs. Hamel was quite right — that was the sicken- 
ing thing that made her so angry; that must be 
it. Behaviour like Nelly's played into the hands 
of all the Grundies and fogies and odious, back- 
ward people. It justified every wink and every 
leer. Oh, she would do her best for the girl this 
once, and afterwards — well, some day she might be 
grateful. 

Upstairs, Nelly lay on her bed, flushed and rigid, 
trying to stifle the misery that was choking her. 
She felt adrift in a whelming sea where there was 
no swimming. She could not struggle against her 
destiny. She was in the grip of misfortune. 
Things had been going too well — too well. She 
was not meant for happiness. 



212 THE CHORUS 

She felt for Tony's ring where it lay between 
her breasts. She clasped her hands upon it and 
held it to her as if it also were desolate and in 
grief. Guarding it so, the tears flowed from beneath 
her eyelids. Presently she fell asleep. 



CHAPTER XX 

MORE UNPLEASANTNESS — THE GARDEN-PARTY 

The day of the garden-party dawned warm and 
cloudy with a promise of bright sun. On one of 
the lawns a small marquee was being erected. The 
noise of the hammers broke the still air ominously. 
It might have been a scaffold or a cofhn they were 
making. 

Nelly awoke to a consciousness of trouble. It 
was gnawing at her breast before she recollected 
the reason of it. Hilda was up already. Nelly 
could hear her moving in the next room. Could 
she escape her vigilance, she wondered, and get 
an early train to town ? Still she must see Tony 
for a minute before she went. There must be no 
risk of a change of plan at the last moment. She 
heard Hilda pause outside her door and her brows 
drew together, the door opened, she lay looking at 
the ceiling, Hilda did not look at her either. She 
said, "Are you coming down to breakfast?" 

"No," said Nelly. 

"Oh, very well," the door was shut. 

Nelly lay sulking. She wanted to get up, but 
she wanted still more to irritate Hilda. She lay 
on pretending to sleep. Presently Hilda came 
upstairs again. 

"Are you going to lie in bed all day?" 

"No, I'm not." 

213 



214 THE CHORUS 

" Why don't you get up, then ? " 

"I've no reason for getting up, have I?" 

"Look here, Nelly," said Hilda, "I was a beast 
last night. Do cheer up ! You know I wish you 
every good thing, don't you? Can't you see how 
impossible a mad plan like yours would be ? Be 
a nice child." 

No response. She tried again. 

"Come and choose wdiat you want for this after- 
noon. You can have my Liberty muslin, if you 
like." 

"I'm not going to the garden-party." 

"Oh, but you must." 

"I'm not going." 

"Nelly, don't be a fool," Hilda's temper surged 
up again. "I've said we'd go, and we are going 
to behave as if nothing had happened." 

"You can go if you like. I shall stay here." 

"Then I must stay too." 

"You are unbearable." 

"It's no use getting into a rage. I'm not going 
to let you out of my sight, so you can make up 
your mind to that." 

"Very well, then I stay where I am." 

She turned over and drew up the bed-clothes. 
Hilda waited a minute. 

"Oh, very well, of course, if you won't be 
friends," she said. She went downstairs again. 

"Idiot;' said Nelly. 

Presently she rolled out of bed and prepared to 
dress herself. 

She was brushing her hair when Hilda came in 
again. 

"Hullo, I thought you weren't getting up?" 



MORE UNPLEASANTNESS 215 

"I suppose I can chiinge my mind, can't I?" 

"Oh, of course." She went into her own room. 
How silly it all was, quarrelling like schoolgirls. 

She got out a little pink muslin dress with a net 
fichu and carried it into Nelly's room. 

"What's that for?" asked Nelly. 

"Won't you wear it this afternoon ? " 

"I don't want anything of yours." The hostile 
voice trembled. 

"Dear Nelly, don't keep it up so long. I'm 
awfully sorry for having spoken so rudely, but 
nobody could help feeling the way I did." 

Nelly looked at her. It amazed her to see how 
little Hilda realized the importance of the affair. 
At last she said — 

"Hilda, you're a brick. Forgive me for being 
rude too." 

Hilda kissed a cold little check. She felt the 
joy of Heaven over the repentant sinner. She felt 
the conquest of reason over instinct, of right over 
wrong. Everything, was splendid. Nelly would 
wear the dress. Her pride always yielded to seduc- 
tion. What a good time they would have ! What 
a day for ices ! 

The garden-party was in full swing when they 
arrived. The lawns were crowded with women in 
light dresses islanding the rarer figures of men, 
Miss Fitch, with the smartest of sunshades, waved 
a gay hand to them. Mrs. Arden smiled from 
her chair. The Spink girls, already flushed from 
tennis, bounded towards them. The air was full 
of the shrill chatter of voices saying nothing very 
interesting and nothing very witty, just the voices 
of people conscientiously enjoying themselves. 



216 THE CHORUS 

Mrs. Hamel, white-clad and frail as an anemone, 
shook hands with them on the steps. Tony was 
nowhere to be seen, he was exhibiting the treasures 
of the studio. Mrs. Eckstein bustled over, elabo- 
rately skirted and in all the latest mysteries of 
fashion. Steven Young and Arden Keath greeted 
them, and they went to find ices together. They 
joined Miss Fitch and made small jokes in the 
tumult. Their remarks were all disconnected and 
irrelevant. When the noise lulled occasionally 
they could only look at one another and laugh, 
they had no preparedness for these opportunities. 

Nelly could not see Tony anywhere. Her eyes 
sent anxious glances into every corner of the 
garden, but he was nowhere to be seen. And then 
at last she perceived him. He was passing along 
the terrace, laughing with some of his friends. He 
was bare-headed, suited in white, resplendent be- 
neath the sun. Involuntarily she moved toward 
him. He saw her, paused in his talk, called to 
her, "Having a good time, dear child?" He did 
not notice her wanness. People bore down upon 
him. She was swept away in the flood. The smile 
left her lips. She felt worn out and tired to ex- 
haustion. She left the group beside the fuchsia- 
hedge, and wandered down to where the green 
carpet of the grass bordered the lily pond. There 
the darting dragon-flies hung, and the music of 
the band came with a velvet drowsiness. She stood 
and looked at tlie great waxen flowers and the 
brown water. Between her and the multitude 
crowding the terraces there seemed to be an im- 
penetrable veil. She could hear the voices and the 
laughter, but remotely as if through a glass screen. 



MORE UNPLEASANTNESS 217 

A fish came to the surface of the pond among" the 
niy stems, and watched her for what seemed a 
long thiie with its insolent, unspeculating eyes. 
All the eyes behind her in the garden had seemed 
to oppose to her that same undeviating stare. She 
was in the world, but she had nothing to do with 
them. There was nobody on her side. Tony 
was not thinking of her. For a moment her soul 
seemed to plunge into an abyss of darkness without 
sound. 

Miss Fitch and Mrs. Arden had noticed her 
depression. They sent Ardent Keath up the hill 
to find ices for them. Then they looked at one 
another. 

"Well, what do you think of it?" their eyes 
said. 

"The poor child is extravagantly in love," said 
Miss Fitch. "I wish I'd warned her long ago." 

"Really Anthony Hamel is a heartless, self- 
centred " 

"Oh, don't call him that, poor darling! Don't 
call him that ! He never thinks what he's doing. 
He can't sight a pretty girl a mile away without 
making a run for her. It is his nature to." 

"Oh, it's all very well for us to laugh. We are 
hardened. But for a woman who cares " 

"Oh, my dear, don't let other people's troubles 
distress you more than they do themselves. No 
one is ever hurt by an unhappy love affair in the 
long run. It's like cutting teeth. Painful, but 
worth while in the end. Besides, you know, I'm 
not so sure that this is an unhappy love affair." 

"But surely !" There was only one happy 

ending for Mrs. Arden. 



218 THE CHORUS 

"Well, if you won't think me too scandalous — 
I think Tony is infatuated too." 

"But, my dear! He's old enough to be her 
father ! He thinks of her in quite a different way, 
I'm sure ! He feels himself a sort of uncle ! " 

"A most dangerous feeling." 

"Oh, you're an incurable cynic. I'm sure the 
whole thing is innocent." 

"Oh, innocent! Good gracious, yes. But not 
in the Biblical sense ! " 

" Has Erica noticed anything ? " 

"Oh, Erica is very well able to take care of her- 
self." Miss Fitch did not relate the history of her 
defeats. She had risked a snub in saying to Mrs. 
Hamel : "Tony admires Nelly Hayes greatly, 
doesn't he?" and received it with the reply: "Oh, 
we all admire her." 

"Well, I can't feel happy about it," said Mrs. 
Arden. She had a memory of a man she had liked 
in the early days of her marriage, and of how he 
had said bitterly to her because she was in the 
height of her loveliness: "Of course, you are too 
good to care for anyone but your husband." To 
which she had replied: "Not too good, only too 
lucky." She believed that to be profoundly true. 
She could not with Miss Fitch think cheerfully of 
loves that pass away leaving no trace. For her 
own part such a thing would have ruined her and 
set the castle of her life tumbling about her ears. 
Miss Fitch said these things were not so, and Miss 
Fitch was notoriously clever. All the same, 
temperaments differed. A flirtation to one woman 
might be a broken heart to another. (Mrs. Arden 



MORE UNPLEASANTNESS 219 

believed in broken hearts.) She thought she would 
go and talk to the girl. 

She came upon her by the lily pond. 

"What's the matter, Rapunsel ? Are you ill?" 
She took Nelly by the arm. 

The pale face turned to her, and a weak voice 
from what seemed far away prayed to her — 

"Be kind to me." 



CHAPTER XXI 

M.\RKING TIME — .\N HONEST INDIAN ASS GOES FOR 
AN UNICORN — FAREWELLS 

The long dinner-table of dark mahogany reflected 
the bright silver, the flowers, the glasses, the china, 
the lighted candles, as the tangled flowers of a 
meadow bank hang down into a stream. The walls, 
hidden with old tapestry, were shadowed and 
remote, the ceiling with its shallow arches was 
gently mysterious, dark curtains hid the daylight. 

Round the table talk and laughter wove a gar- 
land. The candle flames lit white hands, shone 
starrj'-pointed in eyes, drew into momentary 
splendour a pendent jewel. 

Mrs. Hamel had Sir Galton Strong on her right, 
and smiled with a faint radiance upon her distin- 
guished guest. At the other end of the room was 
Anthony between Mrs. Arden and a handsome 
stranger. Hilda had been taken in to dinner by 
Steven Young, Xelly by Ardent Keath, but this 
was by an oversight on Mrs. Hamel's part, who 
had intended her to have an exceedingly intellectual 
partner with a stammer. Miss Fitch had gallantly 
volunteered for him at the last moment, and was 
flooding conversation into his ears without giving 
him time to answer. The Ecksteins were there also, 
and an enormously successful novelist (whom 
Ardent Keath after dinner looked forward to 

220 



MARKING TBIE 221 

instructing in the rudiments of his art), and 
Mr. Joppling, of Burton-under-Lyne, who had a 
legacy to spend for a local Art Gallery. 

Xelly had put up her hair for the occasion. It 
had taken a long time and made her arms ache, 
and now she was watching Tony's face for a sign 
that he noticed the great change. The table seemed 
to her a board set for an elaborate game whose 
rules she did not know. She had never been at 
a dinner-party before — indeed, she had only been 
invited to this one at the last moment to make the 
fourteenth guest. The array of knives and forks 
frightened her. She watched to see what her neigh- 
bours did before she dared touch anything. She 
was between Mr. Joppling and Ardent Keath, and 
the latter had eyes only for the abandoned novelist 
and the former for what was on his plate. Hilda's 
eyes, too, all the time in scrutiny of her, added to 
the ordeal. Her mouth was quite dry with nervous- 
ness. She felt as if she were perched in some 
remote part of the room near the cornice looking 
on, instead of taking part. The only attention she 
received from her neighbours was when Ardent 
Keath stooped for her napkin, and she saw no sign 
of interest in Mr. Joppling's face till its expression 
of honest pain and amazement when he heard her 
say " Thank you " to the butler. She had a miser- 
able time. She wished she had skipped the entree, 
as had the handsome stranger, and then when she 
did imitate her by skipping the joint (the stranger's 
handsomeness was of the increasing kind) she 
forgot and helped herself to beans and potatoes — 
very difficult things to eat with a dry mouth and 
no gravy. 



222 THE CHORUS 

Hilda was in bad spirits. She could not help 
thinking of Nelly and Hamel sitting so near one 
another without a sign of their true nearness. She 
saw them ugly with hypocrisy. She rejoiced that 
she had Nelly imprisoned there. Sir Galton 
Strong, a most irksome bore, but an authority on 
tropical plants and the finest writer of villanelles in 
England, a staunch town-planner, too, was attack- 
ing in his usual way the degenerate age in which 
he found himself. 

"Why, with all this cotton-wool wrapping, people 
soon won't know what suffering is. If we aren't 
going to have any more pain I don't see what's to 
become of courage and all the Christian virtues." 

"Mercy!" said Miss Fitch. "I suppose we'll 
still be able to hit our funny-bones ! " 

" It seems to me that the exercise of the Christian 
virtues has never been begun," said Steven of the 
serious eyes. 

"But I maintain that it's an incontrovertible 
fact — " Sir Galton filled his lungs — "that the 
present generation is flabby. In the old days if 
a man broke his leg he called for a hatchet and 
chopped it off himself ! We've no stamina nowa- 
days. We flinch rather than endure. We are 
putting scientific discovery in the place of fortitude. 
We shall learn to be noble not by the spirit soon, 
but by prescription. It seems to me the finest 
things are in danger of being coddled out of the 
world." 

They did the decay of the sense of beauty after 
that, and heard the words "deplorable" and 
"lamentable." And after that came Cubism and 
Dynamism and Vorticism, all of which the success- 



MARKING TIME 223 

ful novelist disposed of by saying that he'd seen 
"the same sort of stuff in Paris five years ago"! 
At the other end of the table Anthony was dis- 
cussing his chances of being allowed to paint the 
interior carvings of Christ Church Priory. 

"What places of flame and glory the churches 
must have been in the old days, now so many echoes 
and gaunt stones I " 

"Perhaps it was when the colour began to go 
the congregations went into dissent ? " 

"Oh, visual beauty is never much attraction," 
said the handsome lady. "Dissenters prefer puce 
window-frames and corrugated iron roofs." 

"Not only Dissenters. Look at the concert halls. 
Their audiences are of the elect, but look at the 
halls I " 

"Isn't the Catholic revival a move towards 
beauty ? " 

"Ah, the Mother and Child. That's the bribe. 
Women look at the baby and men at the Mother's 
face." 

"Women look at the Mother's face too, Pm 
afraid," said Mrs. Arden, smiling. 

"I am in favour of the Greek Church myself," 
said Mr. Eckstein. 

"Russian ballet?" 

"No; icons. I should like an excuse for an 
icon with a little lamp before it in my room, and 
to sprinkle incense, and so on." 

"Well, dear," said his wife across the table, "we 
can have one put in to-morrow if you like." 

An icon or a geyser — it was all one to her. Nelly 
wondered if they were going to sit at the table 
till midnight. She had somehow, she knew, to 



224 THE CHORUS 

contrive to catch the 11.15 at Otterbridge. If she 
did not succeed in that the world fell in pieces about 
her. How could she elude Hilda's watchfulness 
and get to the station ? vShe had made sure she 
could get her own way about it in the end ; she 
had not expected Hilda to be so mulish. There 
must be some word of persuasion that had failed 
her, some statement of her case to melt all hearts, 
but she had not the gift to find words for it. 
Should she slip into the garden after dinner and 
make a bolt for the station as she was? Oh, but 
in that case Hilda would find it a duty to tell 
Mrs. Hamel, and if Mrs. Hamel knew everything 
was over. Instinctively Nelly knew that Anthony 
in a big row could not be relied upon. He would 
so hate giving people pain he would be sure to 
make everybody suffer. If only she could get a 
minute alone with him and persuade him to bring 
the motor down to Elkins's for her and tear away 
into the night, and risk the scandal I But he 
would not do that. She hardly dared, she knew, 
to tell him there was any hitch at all; he would 
be so swiftly in concern for her. She must just 
pray for luck, she supposed. What did the tall 
stiff with the beard mean with his cackle about 
cotton-wool ? What did he know about suffering ? 

They had reached dessert. 

The evening was elaborate torture for Nelly. 
Why, with all her future life in the balance, must 
she sit on a floor in a music-room stroking a 
grey cat? Why must she hear people chattering 
above her, and then Mr. Eckstein chattering on 
the piano? What were all these threads of sound 
that never wove themselves into one warm melody? 



MARKING TIME 225 

It seemed her whole Hfe was like that — listening to 
a fugue when she wanted a valse tune. She felt as 
if she had been buried alive and must not rap on 
the coffin. She got no chance of speaking to 
Anthony; he was engrossed with Mr. Joppling of 
Burton. 

Somewhere a clock struck what she knew must 
be ten. She terrified herself by saying it was 
eleven. Anyhow, she must struggle out of her 
petrifaction. She put the cat on to the floor and 
rose to her feet. 

"Getting stiff?" someone asked her. She 
realized she had been talking sometimes as well 
as listening all the evening. 

She sought out Hilda, who was sitting not very 
happily with Steven. 

"I'm tired," she said; "1 want to go home." 

"Surely we can't go yet," said Hilda; "it's only 
ten o'clock." 

"I can't help that; I'm going. You can stay 
if you like." 

"Oh no; I'm coming with you." 

"Very well." 

They said good-bye to Mrs. Hamel. 

"So early?" came the languid voice. "Good- 
night, good-night. I shall see you to-morrow, 
Hilda?" 

She resumed her conversation. 

The girls moved to the door. 

"I'll put on your cloaks," said Anthony, follow- 
ing them. 

W^as there a chance for one word ? Would he 
be angry if she whispered to him while Hilda was 
there ? If only he were not so ashamed of her I 

Q 



226 THE CHORUS 

She dropped her handkerchief; he stooped for it, 
and so did she. 

"You'll wait for me if I'm late, Boss?" she 
breathed. 

"You aren't going to back out?" Was it hope 
or fear struck a beat out of his heart ? 

"Oh no." 

"Nine o'clock," he said aloud, looking into her 
eyes. 

"Ten, Boss," said Hilda. "It's later than you 
think." 

He turned his smile to her. 

"So it is," he said, and continued smiling. 
"Well, good-bye." He put an arm round each 
of them. "I shall look forward to seeing you 
again." His fingers squeezed Nelly's shoulder. 
"We've had good times, haven't we? You won't 
forget me, will you ? " He shook Hilda's hand. 
"I'd like to hear how^ you get on." 

It was difficult to be angry with Anthony. It 
made it all the harder to have to think him base. 
Perhaps the whole bother was a figment of Nelly's 
vanity, thought Hilda. 

He saw the girls disappear in the night. Nelly 
would keep her promise. He had no time to wonder 
how. Anyway, it was her business. If she failed — 
well, it could not be his fault. 

He went back to more music, more laughter. 
Towards midnight ihcy drank his health and wished 
success to his journey. He fell a great affection 
for his friends; it would certainly be good to get 
back to them. The last good-nights were said. 
The car that was to carry him to London came 
round to the door. 



MARKING TIME 227 

"But you'll get no sleep ! '" 

"I shall sleep enough on the boat." 

He ran up to change his evening things. When 
he came down arrayed for the journey only his 
wife was in the lighted hall. He kissed her, hold- 
ing his soft hat in his hand. She stroked the 
warm, rough sleeve of his travelling coat with her 
slender fingers. P^ine lace enveloped her shoulders ; 
she looked frail and unusually gentle. How sad it 
all was, he thought ; how unfortunate ! 

"iNIust you go?" she said, with just a faint note 
of mockery in her voice, as if she were smiling at 
her own solicitude. 

"My darling, will you miss me?" 

"Have you to ask that, Tony?" 

He held her close to him. 

"Take care of yourself, my precious one." 

"Dear Tony, don't let it be too long before you 
come back." 

He looked at her for a last intent moment; then, 
with a squeeze of her lingers, he was gone. All 
night following the dark road her vision pursued 
him : her weakness, her beauty, her line, unwaver- 
ing reserve. He hoped nothing he did would make 
her feel humiliated. She would always be the 
purest of her sex to him ; nothing could smirch 
that vision. His mood lasted until he was break- 
fasting with the invaluable Prestow at the factory. 



CHAPTER XXII 

NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 

Meanwhile the girls were hurrying down the 
dark lane to Elkins's. 

"What are you going to do, Nelly?" Hilda 
asked. 

"I'm going to do as I like." 

"You're not going to town to-night?" 

" Yes, I am." 

"You're not." 

"I am." 

They wrangled breathlessly, contradicting each 
other all down the hill. 

Nelly ran up to her room. 

Hilda follow-ed her. 

Nelly told her to go outside. 

"You've made enough trouble for me." 

"You're making far more for yourself." 

"I won't be bossed by you." 

"I'm not going to let you make a fool of your- 
self." 

"Get out of my way. I'm busy." 

"I shan't let you leave here to-night." 

Nelly flamed at her. She was tugging with 
might and main at the bent hooks on her evening- 
dress. She had barely time for her train. 

"You talk about freedom and liberty," she said. 
" But all you mean is a lot of silly rules." 

228 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 229 

"I'm not ass enough to be consistent where your 
safety is concerned." Hilda was adamant. 

"It's all my happiness you're spoiling-, you fool." 
Nelly was furious. 

"Oh, if you're going- to be rude again," said 
Hilda. She moved to the door. " If you intend to 
go away together," she said, "you shall go 
openly." 

She snapped the key out of the lock : " If I can't 
keep you any other w-ay, I shall lock you in." 

"Give me that key." 

"I won't." 

"You shan't keep me here." 

"Yes, I shall." 

"You shan't." Nelly sprang towards her. 

"We'll see about that." Hilda slipped through 
the door. 

With trembling speed she thrust in the key and 
turned it. 

"So that's settled," she said. At that grim 
moment, had she but known it, she was very like 
her father, the retired linen merchant. 

For a minute or more blackness and despair 
reigned in the bedroom. Then shaking with anger 
Nelly resumed her preparations. She tore herself 
out of the white dress, kicked her slippers across 
the floor, tugged open with a crash the chest of 
drawers, so that everything fell over on the top 
of it, flittered out a blouse, thrust her arms into 
it, buttoned the topmost button, snatched her serge 
skirt from the peg on the door so that its loop 
broke, pulled it over her head, fastened it some- 
how, seized her jacket from the bed-rail, buttoned 
its two buttons, looked round for her cap, could 



280 THE CHORUS 

not see it, so decided to do without it, dropped 
her purse into her pocket, tied her shoe-strings, 
listened a moment, and then, with a dead calm 
succeeding- the hurricane of her speed, crossed to 
the window. She listened again. No sound but 
the noisy breathing in her throat. She was astride 
the window sill. An instant more and the sick 
drop through the air was over. So she had gone 
that other night to be with Anthony— was it a 
year ago ? 

She landed lightly enough, crouching on her 
toes, and her hands steadied her. She sprang up 
and stood fronting the darkness, tense, listening. 
Still no sound. She crept to the gate. It was 
open. She slid through. The night was so still ! 
The moonlight lay upon the world like a cold white 
hand. She started to run. She did not know 
what time it was. The fear gripped her with 
physical agony that she had missed the train. She 
ran wildly, desperately. Her heart seemed burst- 
ing, she was forced to walk again. She felt as if 
she were standing still. The impotence of a dream 
seemed fastened upon lier. Every breath shook 
itself from her with a sob. In the reaction of her 
sudden activity she longed to fling herself down 
and sleep, to cease struggling, to cry out that she 
was beaten. So in torment she reached the crest 
of the hill. 

Here the road from Elkins's to the station crossed 
the main road. The ground sloping lightly down- 
wards lifted hope within her again. She broke 
into a trot. For a while she was a racer in winged 
sandals. The ground swept bnck from her. She 
combated the trembling of her mouth ; she shook 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 231 

back her tears. Her eyes felt dry and bright, 
she was conquering destiny. The grass was 
springy and dehghtful, the gorse was a host watch- 
ing her run. Ahnost she gave a leap or two for 
joy as children do, wasting her strength. Presently 
the long, black back of the railway embankment 
rose up beside her. She galloped down the hill 
now. She could hear the train whistling. In her 
heart a prayer shrilled upwards. She reached the 
station and ran under the tunnel. Her shoes sent 
echoes ringing. She was in time. She reached 
the booking office and felt for her purse. 

Then fortune struck and stunned her. 

It was gone. She sought for it again, her 
fingers burrowed feverishly. Oh, God, there were 
only those two small, shallow pockets to search 
in. The purse was gone. She had lost it some- 
where on the road. "Oh, God! Oh, God!" 
Nothing in her trembling fingers but a twisted 
glove without its fellow. The distant thunder of 
the train reached her. Her miserable eyes sought 
the sleepy boy behind the little window. 

"I've lost my purse." She could hardly speak. 
"I'll give you my address, will you let me have a 
ticket to Waterloo ? " 

"Sorry," said the boy, "can't be done." Seeing 
her dishevelled hair he did not add "Miss." He 
walked back into his office. 

She turned to the station-master, a gloomy, 
moustached figure blocking the doorway. She 
went towards him. "Tickets, please," he said. 
She said to him, "I've lost my purse. Can't you 
let me through ? I'll send the money in the morn- 
ing, you can have my address." 



232 THE CHORUS 

"Can't travel without a ticket," he said. 

The rushing of the train sounded nearer. 

"I beg of you," she said. "I assure you I will 
send the money." I'nder his moustache his mouth 
twisted cynically. 

"Tickets, please," he said. The train roared in. 

"I implore you," she cried, "for Christ's sake, 
for His mercy." 

He said : "You can't travel without a ticket; so 
don't you try it on." 

They were rolling the milk cans along the plat- 
form. There was a small stir and bustle and feet 
loud upon the flag-stones. 

"I will send you the money. Oh, I beseech you ! 
I have lost it just on the road." 

"Better go back and look for it." 

" Will you keep the train, then ? " 

"Not 'arf ! " said the man. 

They were calling "Right forward ! " on the plat- 
form. The steam poured hissing from the boiler. 
It was nightmare, hideous nightmare. She fell on 
her knees, her beautiful hair unrolled along her 
shoulders. 

"For the love of God," she cried, "let me come 
through." 

"No," he said. "Clear out of here." 

The train gave a series of sharp coughs. The 
chains jerked and the buffers thumped together. 
"There she goes," said the porters, as the train 
pulled out of the station. The station-master 
stamped out on to the platform and watched the 
tail-lights disappear. 

Nelly, kneeling on the dusty floor of the book'ing- 
office, groped with numb fingers for her hairpins. 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 233 

Her body seemed filled with lead. She grew con- 
scious at last that the boy in the booking-office was 
regarding her with a stare fuller of curiosity than 
of kindness. She picked herself up and walked out 
of the station and through the tunnel again. It 
seemed a long time since she had last been there. 
Her brain was paralysed. She could not think. 
She was too miserable to cry. 

Mechanically she mounted the hill, looking for 
her purse. She could not see it. She must have 
dropped it somewhere near the house. She reached 
the crest of the hill. Oh, if only she could find 
her purse. She strained her eyes for it. vShe 
could not see it. Only the bare cross-roads lay 
deathly under the moon. At the fork a sign-post 
spread spectral arms. 

Nelly moved towards it and read in the still 
white glare, "London, 27 miles." 

There lay her way then, that deserted and un- 
pitying highroad. Its silence filled her with a 
strained, agonized attention. She held to the sign- 
post momentarily for support. What was that ? She 
listened, quivering with apprehension. "Hush," 
said the little wind, moving in the tree-tops. 

Nelly had all a child's terror of darkness and 
the townsman's dread of loneliness as well. She 
faced the empty road as a mariner in a shipwreck 
might face the menacing waters of the sea. Then 
she drew a long breath as if she were about to 
dive, and set her purpose before her and controlled 
the shaking of her limbs. 

She began to walk swiftly, determinedly in the 
direction of London. The sign-post, bleached as a 
skeleton, seemed to watch her out of sight. 



284 THE CHORUS 

The road beyond Otterbridge runs out across 
low hills, the Ridges, where gorse and heather 
desolately take the place of hedged fields and 
friendly roofs, and gardens. Nelly had never been 
so far. She had never walked much at all. She 
had been neither rich nor poor enough all her life 
to harden her muscles. She walked with hasty, 
fretful eagerness and short steps. She knew before 
she had gone three miles that she had been rash 
and ill-considerate, but she kept on. 

Out there, among the black levels of the Ridges, 
a thousand devils lurked. The narrowed night 
horizon held no promise of an end. 

As she descended each hollow the mist rose to 
her breast like lapping water. She was seized with 
rending doubts lest she had misread the sign-post 
and was walking away from her goal. As the 
wooded hills fell away from her the sense of help- 
lessness and danger became almost unbearable. 
She was conscious of horror at her heels. Her 
hair became rigid, and the vertebrae of her spine 
thrilled and pained her till she longed to scream. 
She became with imaginings almost unconscious. 
She changed her path from the resounding road to 
the grass. She flitted, one with the ghostly way- 
farers of the night, by the edge of the track. She 
walked quickly and her feet made no noise. Her 
head was bare and her long hair streaming. She 
was as strange an apparition as any other by the 
light of the moon. 

Half-wav towards Marbury the Ridges rise to a 
considerable height. Facing the steep ascent of 
the road in the heavy shadow of the hill, she heard 
voices singing on the far side. They were loud 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 285 

voices, men's voices, wavering and uncontrolled. 
Her vague horrors were replaced by a definite fear, 
but she moved onward swiftly. She was too 
stupefied with emotion to have thought of hiding 
herself or of any action indeed, but to follow the 
London road. The hill rose above her, the moon 
resting the edge of its bright disc upon it. Against 
this surface two silhouettes appeared. A tall man 
with a wooden leg and a shorter one that moved 
nimbly. Their clothes hung ragged about them, 
and flapped torn edges in the moonlight. As they 
walked they swayed inwards and outwards, separat- 
ing and colliding together with the movements of 
a concertina, and as they staggered they howled. 

Nelly advanced swiftly, silently to meet them. 
They lurched down upon her, and the big man 
gulped, "Give us a kiss." She saw herself for a 
moment made captive, caught by the nimble fellow, 
dragged in hideous strugglings to the big one. 
Rut she walked on. She did not swerve an inch 
or turn her head or speak. Fear gave to her 
shoulders a slightly raised appearance, the rigidity 
of her body made her sinister. 

The roisterers stood agape. Then one of them 
said, "Oh, Jesus! " and started to run. Their big 
hoots clattered riotously down the hill. 

Nelly walked on. She did not run till she was 
down the further slope. She judged they would 
guess her mortal, and follow if they saw her 
running. 

When she was well away she began to walk 
again. The reality of danger had somehow 
knocked the fear out of her bones. She identified 
herself with the mysteries of night. Her silence 



286 THE CHORUS 

gave her a fantastic pleasure. She began to enjoy 
the short grass under her foot. She was almost 
happy. She was conquering destiny. 

At the end of the Ridges came a pine wood, and 
in a perfumed warmth she heard a nightingale 
singing. The notes made a little rippling brook 
of sound in the still branches. She and the bird 
of love were waking the night together. She was 
swept with tenderness and pity for herself, and she 
thought of Anthony and her journey's end. She 
walked bravely. 

Near Marbury the woods began again, and the 
road ran through a deep ravine of oak and hazel. 
Here it was so dark that she could barely trace her 
way. The roadside grass was long and cool as 
water about her ankles. vShe walked through it. 
It refreshed her. In the darkness a big man 
tramped past her, a gamekeeper going his round. 
She caught the long gleam of his gun-barrel. 

A gruff "good-night" jumped at her. She did 
not answer. In the darkness he thought it was a 
man went by. 

So through Marbury, with the moon glimmering 
between the branches and the fields white with mist, 
and on to Altringham, the steep little village above 
the common, and there the moon set. It was two 
o'clock in the morning. Darkness swathed the 
world like a cloak. She found a sign-post on the 
common where the road to Weybridge crosses here, 
running east and west, but it was too dark to read 
it. vShe dared not go forward without its guidance. 
She sat down beside it to wait. 

She was tired and her feet hurt her. She leaned 
her back against the post. Her eyes closed. The 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 237 

delicious warmth that heralds sleep stole over her 
weary body. For awhile she dozed. 

She leapt wide awake, her eyes staring. The 
common, the surrounding woods, the spire above 
them, every blade of grass, every stone in the road 
was lit up with a relentless illumination. For a 
moment she thought the moon had risen again, 
then that it lightened. But the illumination grew. 
She looked behind her and saw the shadow of the 
sign-post and her own shadow shoot out and bar 
the ground for half-a-mile away. Then she heard 
the drone of a motor approaching from the west. 
It was her opportunity. She read the sign-post, 
"London, i8 miles." She had made barely a third 
of the way then, but she was on the right road. 
The motor changed its gear with a loud grating 
sound, and humming busily turned to the left to- 
wards London. vShe followed in its wake. She 
wished she had asked for a lift along the road, 
and hurried after it, but it drew away from her 
smoothly, rapidly, and soon its humming was 
merged into the silence. While she held it in sight 
it was company. She felt her loneliness again 
when it was gone. The darkness was impenetrable. 

Tears rose to her eyes. She felt outcast from 
her fellows. She knew she could not hold up her 
head before hard eyes and sharp tongues. She 
went forward doggedly. 

The road led up to a high plateau and lay between 
low hedges and open fields. The air grew colder. 
A little wind stirred and freshened it. It made a 
soft whispering on each side of her. She was 
passing through cornfields. Her skirt and coat 
all at once were damp with dew. She noticed the 



238 THE CHORUS 

rich smell rising from the ground. She passed a 
walled garden sweet with stocks, and a wide, grassy 
plain fragrant with briar. She heard the shrill, 
sad cries of owls. The road dipped. She was 
engulphed in darkness. Then it rose again, and 
towards her floated the enervating odour of meadow- 
sweet. To her right she saw spreading fields, and 
a tree suddenly clear and defined, outlined in pale 
grey, thrust up among them. The sky grew 
leaden. Twittering bird voices awoke in the 
branches. A cock sent its raucous voice across the 
meadows, another answered it, another and another. 
The eastern sky became stained with pale bright 
red and yellow and with green. The bird voices 
grew louder. It was dawn. 

The landscape seemed to drink in colour. The 
drab fields became green. Nelly realized of a 
sudden that she was desperately hungry. Empty 
and tired almost to exhaustion, she came into the 
little town of Woodford. No one was awake yet, • 
the curtains in the windows were all drawn close, 
the shutters were up. It gave the place a coffined, 
funereal air. The market-square was empty* By 
the horse-trough some sparrows pecked the grains 
neglected in their yesterday's feast. The town- 
hall, ethereal in the delicate rosy light, showed a 
new-gilded clock face. The time was 4.15. 

She got a drink of water from the fountain 
erected, so its inscription said, to commemorate 
the Diamond Jubilee. She bathed her face too as 
well as she could and rinsed her hands. A fine 
sight for well-conducted housewives, had any been 
awake. But there was no one to spy upon her, 
and she dried herself with the loose hems of her 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 239 

blouse and plaited back the long yellow scarf of 
her hair. So she came to the next sign-post, a 
little worn but not disconsolate, and read, "London, 
i3f miles." 

Beyond Woodford the road was lightly wooded 
again. She saw cows lying in the fields, and once 
a rabbit scurried just ahead of her along the ditch. 
She walked slowly now. A farmhouse cat slid 
across the road, going home from its hunting. 

She w^as tired and hungry. Her feet were sore. 
The sole of one of her cheap shoes was loose, and 
flapped uncomfortably. She realized that she was 
grimy with dust and the night mists. Her spirits 
sank low again. She would never arrive in time. 
On the hill outside Penilow village she sat down 
by the roadside from sheer fatigue. Opposite her 
a milestone read: "London loj miles," there was 
no mention of Otterbridge or jMarbury upon it. 
She sat staring at it. She heard a clock strike six. 
She held her sore foot in her hand. A dog came 
and barked at her from behind a fence. Tears 
welled to her eyes and overflowed upon her cheeks. 
She wondered what would become of her. 

Her despair was interrupted by a sound of men 
and horses, the clattering of hoofs and the creaking 
of wheels. Groaning and swaying, a wain, loaded 
with flower and fruit boxes, drawn tandem-wise, 
mounted the hill. The horses stopped a moment 
to breathe, the carter, whip in hand, mopping his 
brow. At this moment he caught sight of Nelly's 
grief-stricken figure bowed under her yellow hair. 

"Like a lift?" he shouted. She raised her tear- 
smirched face. "Going to London ?" She nodded 
voicelessly. "Like a lift?" She pulled herself 



240 THE CHORUS 

stiffly to her feet. "Oh, thank you." "Climb on, 
then." Slie moved to tlie wain and stood beside 
it. For her life she could not have scrambled on 
to it, she felt as if she had been kicked all over. 
"Here," shouted the man, "give us a hand." At 
his voice a sleepy boy on the top of the boxes 
roused himself and stretched down his hand to her. 
She caught hold of it. The carter boosted her, she 
reached the top of the wain. 

"Now then, young Albert," shouted the driver, 
"make room for the lady, can't you." Albert, 
grinning self-consciously, made a place for her 
upon the sacking; it was warm from his grimy 
person, but she was too weary to care about that. 
Her head sank back into its greasy malodorous- 
ness, her legs hung down swaying wuth the motion 
of the wain. She fell asleep. 

She was awakened by consciousness of a loud 
voice talking. "Jarge," it said, "I reckon as she's 
run away from schewl." She did not open her 
eyes, but through the lashes perceived Albert reclin- 
ing near her addressing the back of the carter, who 
from his high seat w-as driving. Evidently they 
were conjecturing who she might be. She opened 
her eyes wide and saw they were still in the country, 
but the fields displayed large boards with ugly 
advertisements on them, and notices of land to sell, 
and instead of cottages were hideous rows of red- 
brick boxes with slate roofs. They were getting 
near London. 

The carter glanced down at her, and she smiled 
up at him. 

"It is kind of you to help me along like this." 

The carter, confused before her beauty, blushed 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 241 

to the ears and murmured something- ending with 
"a good turn." 

"I was feeling just done," said Nelly. "I've 
been walking all night." 

"Thought you looked as if you'd been in for 
something." 

"Yes," said Nelly. "I lost my purse and 
couldn't go by train, so I started to walk. It is 
most important that I should get to London soon. 
What time shall we be in, do you think ? " 

"You're safe enough here," said the carter. He 
was incredulous of anything, save that she was 
some sort of fugitive. 

"Yes, indeed," said Nelly; and then a little 
anxiously, "But what time do you reckon to 
arrive ? " 

The man considered. " We did ought to be in 
Coven t Garden by half-past six by rights, but we're 
behind this morning. I dunno what time it is by 
right, but 1 reckon we won't be in much afore 
nine." 

A horse had lost a shoe. That was the cause of 
their lateness. She thanked her good angel. She 
would be in time. 

So they creaked on through the squalid fields 
and the dreary suburbs. Presently she saw milk- 
men going their rounds and a postman rat-tatting 
smartly at closed doors. A servant-maid appeared 
shaking a duster, and another further on cleaning- 
some steps. The city wore an unaccustomed air, 
a delicacy, a cleanliness. The sky was a clear 
turquoise over it, the shadows were transparent. 

The carter told her that his boxes contained 
flowers and vegetables for the London market. It 



242 THE CHORUS 

wouldn't matter much being late, he said, there 
were always plenty of buyers, and anyhow that was 
not his business, and it wasn't his fault. He came 
from beyond Woodford. She had walked through 
there that morning, and did he know the Ridges. 
He'd a brother living near there. He'd been there 
sometimes of a Sunday. She had walked over 
them that night. "And I wasn't half-scared." 
He'd bet she was. 

Chatting friendlily they arrived at the outlying 
tram-lines. Nelly wished she could have left him 
there and gone ahead in a fleet tram to the Embank- 
ment, but she hadn't a penny. The lumbering of 
the wain filled her with impatience. 

They crawled through Clapham and over Water- 
loo Bridge. The streets were already busy with 
black-clothed clerks and girls going to their work. 
Their early morning trimness made her conscious 
of her strange and unkempt appearance. She 
began to have misgivings as to what Anthony 
would think of her. The toil of her journey had 
for the most part kept him out of her thoughts. 
Would he welcome her, tired and filthy and with 
broken shoes? She thought he would. She would 
not have the courage to call at Miss Cluer's for 
her clothes, even if she had time. She would just 
catch Tony and explain the situation and he'd 
give her some more money, and when she had had a 
bath and breakfast somewhere, she'd get dressed 
properly and join him at Dover. 

Anthony would laugh to hear how she had ridden 
into London with the flowers. He would say 
delightful things to her about her company of roses 
and lilies and love-in-a-mist. And she would say 



NELLY HAYES MISSES SOME TRAINS 243 

quite truthfully, "Oh, but you couldn't know they 
were there. They were all in cases. You couldn't 
see them even through the slats. Or smell them 
either for the sacking ! " And he would laugh and 
say perhaps, "But the flowers knew you were 
there." How thrilling it would be to be seated 
opposite him again and to see his eyes fixed upon 
her in affectionate mockery and with that intimate 
smile that made her cheeks grow hot. Her heart 
began to beat in great throbs. She forgot her 
tiredness, she forgot the night and its terrors, she 
forgot the future and its uncertainties, she remem- 
bered only that she was going to her lover, that 
she was going to the dearest thing in the world. 
Her eyes grew misty with love and her throat 
strained. 

They reached Wellington Street as St. Martin's 
chimed the quarter to nine. Its bells floated 
beautifully upon her. She asked the carter to put 
her down. She ran along the Strand. 

She forgot to say good-bye or thank you to the 
carter. All her exhausted energies were concen- 
trated on reaching the boat-train platform before 
the clock struck nine. Sometimes she ran a few 
steps, sometimes she walked. The loose sole of 
her shoe dragged at her, the soreness of her feet 
made her limp. Everywhere her eyes ranged for 
clocks as she hurried on. Seven minutes to nine 
said one, eight minutes said another. A public- 
house said nine o'clock, a w-atchmaker's wares said 
five different things. 

At three minutes to nine she was outside the 
station. In through the first archway she ran on 
to the broad-paved space full of perambulating 



244 THE CHORUS 

baggage and iinhurrying voyagers. She came to 
the gateway. Would they stop her? "Seeing 
someone off?" asked the inspector. Speechless 
she nodded. He passed her through. The boat- 
train was unmistakably before her, every door shut, 
every window full of vacant pink ovals, faces, faces, 
but not the one that her eyes sought. Groups on 
the platform at every door were smiling in at the 
windows. "One more minute," said somebody out- 
side to somebody within. She began her limping- 
run again. Boys with newspapers and chocolates 
got in her way, empty trucks hampered her. The 
train began to move. Where was he? Where was 
he? The train was moving out. It was impossible. 
She was dreaming. It hadn't happened. She 
quickened her pace, keeping level with the moving 
train. At the same moment in a carriage just 
ahead of her she caught sight of Anthony's face. 
He was looking past her, at the ground, without a 
sign of recognition. The carriage slid out on the 
naked metals. The platform was empty. She was 
watching the tail of the vanishing train. He had 
not seen her. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

TEMPTATION AND FALL OF MISS FITCH 

Eight o'clock in the morning is not a particu- 
larly pleasant hour for going to call on one's 
friends, but it was at that hour that Hilda, hatless, 
breathless and breakfastless, presented herself at 
The Height. A little pink-clad maid with a leather 
was polishing the brass and glass of the front door. 
She gaped when she saw Hilda. 

"Is anyone down yet? Could I see Miss Fitch, 
do you think, or Mrs. Arden ? " 

The little maid left her post. "I'll just inquire, 
Miss," and Hilda could hear her shrill appeals to 
a higher power grow muffled towards the kitchen : 
"Mr. Farrow ! Mr. Farrow ! " 

It gave a strangely disorganized feeling to 
encounter the butler, when he presently appeared, 
unshaved as yet and negligent as to his collar. 

No one was down. In fact, no one was expected 
before nine o'clock. The trays with the morning 
teas were only just going up. Hilda caught sight 
of a housemaid that she knew mounting the stairs. 

"I'll go up with the tea, then," she said. 

She followed the swinging, starched skirt down 
the corridor, with its monotonous closed doors. 
Outside one of them she recognized Steven Young's 
boots, and the sight gave her a small feeling of 
intimacy. 

245 



246 THE CHORUS 

"Do go to Miss Fitch's room first, please," she 
said to the housemaid. How dead the house 
seemed ! 

The maid knocked smartly and entered at once 
a door on their left. It was so strange to be enter- 
ing a bedroom at that hour, to see the drawn cur- 
tains barring the sunlight, the tumbled bed. It 
gave an impression of sickness, of something 
wrong. 

Miss Fitch was too sleepy to express surprise. 

"Why, my dear," she said, stretching thin arms 
above her head, "this is an early visit ! " 

"I've come to breakfast with you; may I?" 
Hilda's face was obviously anxious. 

"That will be delightful. We'll have it up here. 
Rose!" she recalled the housemaid, "let us have 
a tray up here as soon as breakfast is ready, please. 
And now, dear ! " She turned to Hilda. 

How strange it all was I Everything seemed 
topsy-turvy ! Miss Fitch with her hair tumbled, 
helpless among pillows ! Chaos where all had been 
bright and orderly ! Hilda moved her hands with 
a sudden gesture of despair. 

"It's Nelly," she said. 

"What — what has happened?" 

"She has gone," said Hilda. 

"Gone?" 

"She has gone away with Mr. Hamel." The 
words broke from Hilda with a sort of sob, and 
with the sound of them there surged up in her a 
sense of desolation that was almost unbearable. 

"My dear!" exclaimed Miss Fitch, and sat up 
straight in bed. "When did you find out? My 
dear, huw frightful ! There must be a mistake ! 



FALL OF MISS FITCH 247 

Tony has never But such a way to do 

it!" 

Exclamations and questions came pouring on 
Hilda. 

"I thought she had given it up ! I told her I'd 
tell Mrs. Hamel if she went on with it. Pando- 
lefsky told me of it first. They've been meeting 
and meeting here in the studio for ever so long. 
Oh, I have been an abject fool ! " 

"My child, you couldn't help it." 

"It is so horrible of them ! " 

So horrible of them to let the beast come into 
what had been the veriest flower-garden. For a 
brief instant she pictured in her mind's eye Nelly's 
smooth arms about the neck, Nelly's yellow hair 
against the breast of Anthony's white jersey. It 
stirred the deep jealous anger within her. 

"It's so horrible of them ! " 

"Tell me, tell me, when did she go?" 

"After the party last night. She wanted to catch 
the last train up to town. I said she shouldn't. 
We rowed about it and I locked her into her room. 
She must have climbed out of the window." 

"She must have been desperate." 

"She was mad. She didn't know what she was 
doing. I was sure if she had time she wouldn't 
be so wicked. I thought everything would be right 
again by this morning — once Tony had gone." 

" Poor girl I Poor girl ! She must have loved 
him desperately." 

"Then she oughtn't to have loved him. What 
right had she to love him ? W^e were all so happy 
before she came 1 " 

Miss Fitch looked at her flushed cheeks and 



248 THE CHORUS 

tear-bright eyes for a moment. Then she said 
decisively — 

"It's no use blaming people. If anyone is to 
blame it is Anthony. He should have contented 
himself with being adored." 

Here was very much to talk about. 

"Go over, like a dear, and fetch Airs. Arden. 
She'll be dressed by now\ Her room is nearly 
opposite." 

Hilda went over and fetched her. 

Mrs. Arden was engaged in brushing her hair. 
She looked very girlish with it down her back, and 
she came across to Miss Fitch at once in the prettiest 
of morning wrappers. 

"Well, this is an early hour for a conference ! " 
she began gaily; and then, with a change of voice, 
"Has anything happened?" 

They told her. 

The three feminine faces wore a strained and 
tragic look. 

"Out of the window I" said Mrs. Arden. She 
seemed to be more horrified at that than at any 
other part of the narration. 

"Oh, the fewer morals people have the more 
windows they climb out of," said Miss Fitch 
impatiently. "It's a gift." 

"I made sure she was fast asleep when I got no 
answer, and I didn't go near her room again till 
this morning. It's been going on for months 
and months, Pandolefsky told me. I couldn't 
believe him at first, but there were lots of little 
things. Oh, I ought never to have brought her 
here ! " 

"Can't they be stopped?" asked Mrs. Arden, 



FALL OF MISS FITCH 249 

as if athirst for action, but seating herself for a 
good long colloquy on the side of the bed. 

"What good would that do? " asked Miss Fitch. 
"We're not her guardians." She lifted her 
shoulders. 

"Of course, he'll marry her," said Hilda. 

They both turned to her at once. 

"Oh, that's impossible ! " 

"Out of the question ! " 

"Out of the question? Why out of the ques- 
tion ? " 

"Anthony isn't free, my dear." 

"Well, he could be divorced, couldn't he?" 

The two older women looked at one another and 
smiled. 

"It doesn't rest with him, you see." 

"You mean Mrs. Hamel would have to divorce 
him?" 

" Well, yes, if she wanted to." 

"I don't see," said Hilda grandly, "how any 
woman can stick to a man when he shows he 
doesn't want her." 

''Noblesse oblige. But aren't we talking of 
rather remote possibilities ? Anthony may not 
want to be divorced." 

"Oh, he cannot be such a brute as that ! " Hilda 
burst out. 

"My dear child, don't let's call names. We 
must face the facts. Anthony is a perfectly charm- 
ing fellow. Abusing him only confuses things." 

"Besides," said Mrs. Arden, "we know perfectly 
well that Erica is not the sort of woman who 
abdicates." 

"Even if Anthony has ceased to want her. You 



250 THE CHORUS 

can't divide people's emotions like pineapple 
chunks." Miss Fitch was precise. 

*'But don't you think he ought to marry her?" 
cried Hilda, in hurt amazement. 

"I think it would be very unsuitable," said Miss 
Fitch. "Here comes breakfast." 

"But, Janet, the girl is so young," said Mrs. 
Arden when the door had closed again. "I feel 
we're in some way responsible too, Hilda. Janet 
is an utter cynic, but I feel we ought to make 
some effort." 

"Oh, Anthony is sure to treat her well. I 
shall not cease to maintain that he's a charming 
fellow," said Miss Fitch, beginning to butter her 
toast. 

"But I thought you were fond of Nelly," said 
Hilda limply. 

"So I was; so I am," Miss Fitch's teeth met on 
the toast; "but I'm fond of Anthony as well; also 
of our friend Erica." 

"I like them all, too," said Hilda. "Oh, what 
am I to think about it ? " 

Her anger had gone. She could hardly believe 
that she had felt it. 

"I wish we had married her to Edward Armour," 
said Mrs. Arden. "I suppose this is why she 
refused him ? " She put whole worlds of meaning 
into the "this." 

They ate in silence for a few minutes. 

"Still," said Hilda at last, "we haven't decided 
what we are to do." 

"Do!" said Miss Fitch. "My dear, what can 
we do ? Do nothing ! " 

They went on with breakfast. 



FALL OF MISS FITCH 251 

" How are we going to treat him when he comes 
back ? " asked Mrs. Arden diffidently. 

'" Sufficient for the day,' " said Miss Fitch, help- 
ing herself to marmalade. "It's very bad manners 
to discuss one's host like this. Perhaps he won't 
come back at all. Perhaps they'll both be drowned. 
Perhaps they'll disappear like the Austrian Arch- 
duke and live happily ever after. I shan't go half- 
way to meet trouble." 

"That's all very fine, Janet," said Mrs. Arden, 
"but you know perfectly well that he will come 
back ; and what are you going to do then ? " 

"I shall treat him as Pve always treated him. 
Gracious mercy alive ! he may have done this sort 
of thing a score of times without our knowing 
anything about it. I shall be very glad to see him. 
You don't want me to take him aside and lecture 
him, do you ? " 

"But what will have happened to Nelly?" 

Hilda's hurt cry struck in upon them. 

"My dear, I might say that she should have 
thought of that before she started, but Pm not so 
bad as that. The end of her adventure won't bear 
thinking about." 

"But if he loves her?" 

"As long as he does that she will be all right." 

This was reassuring, but it was a little dull. 

"So we are going to do nothing," said Mrs. 
Arden, disappointed. "Don't you think Erica 
ought to know ? " 

"'Lead us not into temptation!'" ejaculated 
Miss Fitch. "What good would that do?" 

"We might persuade her to divorce him," said 
Hilda. 



252 THE CHORUS 

Miss Fitch glanced into the eyes of Mrs. Arden. 
They were loath to see so many dramatic possi- 
bilities departing on tiptoe. It was such an irre- 
sistible scene to imagine — Hilda making her appeal 
to that little porcelain image of perfection. The 
wish to thrust a dart of emotion into a being super- 
ciliously above such things — sheer love of mischief 
— doubt and desire alternated skippingly in Miss 
Fitch's brain. If it was serious Erica must know 
sooner or later — if not, what harm ? 

Miss Fitch fell. 

"Perhaps Hilda ought to tell her. She will 
certainly be annoyed if she finds out in a casual 
sort of way " 

Miss Fitch balanced hesitating at the prospect. 

"Oh, really," said Hilda, "I don't think I could 
do that. I'd much rather you would. You would 
know so much better than I should what to say." 
Her eyes appealed from one face to the other. 
Miss Fitch and Mrs. Arden looked judicial. 

Then Miss Fitch said, with an air of great 
reasonableness — 

"We must try and put ourselves in Erica's 
place. To hear of this little indiscretion of 
Tony's from you is to hear of it from the fountain- 
head. If, on the other hand, 1 were to tell her 
she might ask — and positively I think she would 
he justified — why all the world should know of it 
before her ? " 

Hilda wriggled her shoulder-blades. 

"Why need she know at all?" she asked. 

"Surely," said Mrs. Arden, "it is only right 
that she should? To hide a thing like this doesn't 
seem quite straight— does it?" 



FALL OF MISS FITCH 253 

"It depends which side you take, doesn't it?" 
asked Hilda. 

"Oh ! sides ! " exclaimed ^liss Fitch. 

"I always take the woman's side," said Mrs. 
Arden sentimentally. 

"But which is the woman's side?" cried Hilda. 

Miss Fitch laughed. "Hilda has scored," she 
said. " In this case you will have to make division 
of yourself. For my own part, I am incurably an 
onlooker. But if you do really take the woman's 
side — " she addressed Mrs. Arden — "you must take 
the girl's, for she at least is flesh and blood." 

"And the other is only a doll — a doll stuffed 
with steel-filings," said Hilda, rising up. "I shall 

go to her and say to her What on earth shall 

I say to her ? " 

"You will think of something once you begin," 
they encouraged her. 

Mrs. Arden put an arm round her waist and 
squeezed her lovingly. She had given them such 
an interesting morning. 

"We'll meet in the garden," said Miss Fitch, 
"and hear how Erica takes it. I shall dress at 
once." 

"So will I," said Mrs. Arden. 

"Good luck, dear." 

The thing was settled. Whatever "sides" they 
took, she was to be sacrificed to make a feminine 
holiday. She would do her best for Nelly now. 
She found herself solitary in the corridor. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

MRS. HAMEL TURN'S DOWN HER THUMB 

The door of Mrs. Hamel's boudoir, from which 
her bedroom led, faced the top of the stairs. Hilda 
had never entered it without a certain tightening 
of the throat in prelude to that formidable little 
lady. Now it was with a comical sense of relief, 
seeing how near the interview was and in any case 
inevitable, that she heard the maid asking her to 
wait in the boudoir a little while. 

It was a small, many-sided room, filled with early 
sunshine and the smell of carnations. Through the 
bright windows fifty miles of exquisite country 
formed its south wall. The other walls were 
panelled with painted silk, and among blurred 
flowers and knotted ribbons nymphs and shepherds 
enjoyed a perpetual festival. The little writing- 
table, where no one ever disturbed the pens, had 
been Marie Antoinette's. The satin-wood china 
cupboards filling the corners might have been Jane 
Austen's. On the mantelpiece two green parrots 
watched with their china eyes. Between them, 
flanked by painted bowls and silver candlesticks, 
stood a clock surrounded with gilt and set in 
crystal. It did not tick because Mrs. Hamel did 
not like that noise. Its motionless hands drew 
Hilda's eyes to them again and again, and each 

254 



MRS. HAMEL'S THUMB DOWN 255 

time the sight of them gave her a sense of irrita- 
tion. "Three minutes to four," they registered. 

She strolled about the room, drawing comfort 
from the daintiness and charm of it. How perfect 
and how quiet it was. It was like a fan, a painted 
fan that hangs upon a wall. It had just such an 
air of aloofness and inutility. She thought to 
herself, "The right setting for a fan is a graceful 
woman, not a flat white mount. But perhaps there 
are no women delicate enough now to handle a 
painted fan. Mrs. Ilamcl could handle one. Why 
can't she handle this, then? I might be in a 
museum ! " 

She rested her thumbs in the pockets of her 
jacket and pursed her mouth in noiseless whistling. 
"It's not alive," she thought. "It's all under a 
glass case, and it's stopped." It pleased her to be 
defying it with her tweed coat and walking shoes. 
Why had she been so angry with Nelly ? Had it 
been all jealousy? Perhaps. Well, now she was 
happy again and feeling as she ought to feel. 
Nelly was ruined for certain, but Hilda was elevated 
almost to enjoyment by the pity and terror of the 
tragedy. She was Nelly's champion through thick 
and thin. There was an heroic glow in her cheeks 
when Mrs. Hamel's maid came to usher her into 
the presence. 

Mrs. Hamel lay in her great pink-canopied bed 
facing the door. She wore a little Dutch cap of 
lace upon her head and seemed very frail among 
the pillows. She was engaged in polishing her 
nails with a silk handkerchief. She did not cease 
this occupation as Hilda came in, but smiled her 
shallow little smile and said — 



256 THE CHORUS 

"Come and sit beside me. Not on the bed, please, 
tliat chair. Now we can talk. Are you glad to 
be going- home ? " 

"Yes," Hilda said, she was glad, she would like 
seeing the familiar places again. It was nearly a 
year that she had been away. "I shall be very 
sorry to leave here, though," she added. 

How was she to begin ? 

"You must come and stay with us when we are 
settled in again. You know I go this afternoon, 
too. How exhausting these last days have been ! " 
Mrs. Hamel paused between each sentence. She 
drooped her hands languidly. Why could not 
Hilda see she was tired and thank her for her great 
kindness and all that, and go ? 

" I shall never forget your kindness," the girl 
was saying. 

"Well? Well?" 

Mrs. Hamel gave a keen look at her. She was 
sitting in that chair as if she meant to sit there 
all day. 

Mrs. Hamel tried a long pause. At the end of 
it she said — 

"You are very quiet. Not that breakfast is the 
liveliest time ever, and I simply hate people at this 
hour of the morning." Then, feeling that she had 
not been as polished as usual, she added in a voice 
of the flattest indifference and as if suppressing a 
yawn, "How's your friend the circus rider? Does 
she go too ? " 

A light of battle gleamed in Hilda's eye. 

"She has gone," she said. "She has jumped 
through the last hoop and ridden out of the 
arena." 



MRS. HAMEL'S THUMB DOWN 257 

"Oh," said Mrs. Hamel. Hilda was not usually 
allusive. "What has she done?" 

"She has done something very desperate indeed, 
I am sorry to say," said Hilda. 

"I am sure there is a man in it!" cried Mrs. 
Hamel gleefully. 

"There is," said Hilda significantly. "That is 
what I came to see you about." 

"My dear Hilda," exclaimed Mrs. Hamel, "it is 
no use asking me to interfere. I simply cannot 
take the responsibility of meddling. It's not that 
I wish your friend any harm, but I honestly don't 
see what good I could do her. It's a case of 
temperament. I knew from the moment I saw her 
that sooner or later there would be something like 
this." 

"Did you really know that?" asked Hilda rather 
sardonically. 

"Perhaps I should not say that I knew. I cer- 
tainly felt it. It is the fashion now to pretend that 
women have no intuition, but that is all nonsense. 
I have known things instinctively again and again. 
I never liked the girl and I never expected any- 
thing good of her. I am sorry for your sake, Hilda, 
because you must feel responsible in a way, and 
you know I warned you from the beginning." She 
became quite animated with the rightness of her 
prophecy. 

"Yes, Mrs. Hamel, I know you did," said Hilda. 
"That's what makes me feel it all the more." 

"Well, we have to buy experience, all of us," 

said Mrs. Hamel. "Thank goodness, she could not 

influence you in any way. Another time you will 

realize, perhaps, that there is such a thing as 

s 



258 THE CHORUS 

"introduction," and though it is old-fashioned and 
conventional it has its uses, and you won't be so 
ready to pick up chance strangers and make bosom 
friends of them. We all have to buy experience. 
Of course, I am very sorry it has happened." Her 
voice rang triumphantly. Not often does the 
whirligig of time bring in its revenges so that every 
one can appreciate them. 

"Dear Mrs. Hamel," said Hilda, "you don't 
know yet what has happened." 

"I am not at all sure that I want to know," said 
Mrs. Hamel. "I don't care particularly for squalid 
stories. I can guess very well." 

"You cannot guess," said Hilda gravely, "or you 
wouldn't talk like that." 

"Really, Hilda," said Mrs. Hamel, "don't talk 
to me as if you were my grandmother. It is no use 
asking me to sympathise with the creature, if that 
is what you mean." 

Hilda made a gesture of despair. There was 
something so childish about Mrs. Hamel at that 
moment. Her sophistication seemed stripped from 
her. She appeared to Hilda as a small, raw, stupid 
thing that had to be hurt. 

"I am asking you to sympathize with yourself," 
she said brutally. "I am trying to sympathize with 
you." 

It was odious, but it was direct. 

Mrs. Hamel looked at her for a full minute. 

" What on earth do you mean ? " she asked at 
last, and then: "It isn't Tony?" 

"I am very sorry," said Hilda. 

The woman in the bed seemed to have subsided. 
Hilda wished she could have got away without 



MRS. HAMEL'S THUMB DOWN 259 

witnessing- her humiliation. Why had she told? 
She had been a fool to let them make her tell. 

Then a pale voice said — 

"I don't believe it," and again more confidently, 
"I don't believe it," and then with something of 
her old asperity, "I am quite sure, Hilda, that you 
are wrong." 

"I wish I could be," said the girl miserably. 

"Who told you ? " asked Mrs. Hamel. 

"I saw for myself," said Hilda, "and in the end 
Nelly told me herself." 

"You did not hear of it from my husband, I 
presume ? " 

The voice was sarcastic. 

"He thought no one knew but themselves." 

"I see. You heard it from that girl. My good 
Hilda, you must know that the best men in the 
country are libelled in that fashion, and worse, 
every day of the year. Her mind is corrupt. She 
is lying. She is hysterical," said Mrs. Hamel. 

Hilda flushed to anger. 

"It is so, Mrs. Hamel," she said, "they've loved 
each other a long time. I was going to tell you 
a week ago, but I thought — I thought " 

"What did you think?" 

"I thought it was all over. I made her promise 
to give him up. I ought to have stopped her." 

"Stopped her!" cried Mrs. Hamel; "how 
absurdly you talk. If she w'anted to go you should 
have let her go. What possible business could it 
be of yours ? " 

"She is my friend. I ought to have taken care 
of her." 

"To save her from the raven ings of my husband. 



260 THE CHORUS 

See how absurd it is, my dear Hilda. He looked 
upon her as a child, a child." 

Hilda shook her head. 

"He expected her to meet him in town to-day. 
She got out of the window last night to join him. 
I locked her in her room." 

"Well, if she chose to make a fool of herself you 
couldn't prevent her." 

"I thought if Mr. Hamel " 

"Oh, don't bring him into it, please." 

Hilda stared at her. "But how " 

" It has nothing whatever to do with my husband. 
I believe you to have been misinformed." 

Hilda was staggered. 

" But if it is proved to you ? " 

"It can not be proved to me. It's preposterous, 
and I decline to believe it." 

"You must believe what you choose," said Hilda 
wearily. She rose from her chair. "I wish I 
hadn't told you. Good-bye." 

But Mrs. Hamel was as eager to keep the girl 
as before she had been to get rid of her. 

"Where is she now?" 

"I don't know." 

" What do you mean ? " 

"I mean she ran away last night and I don't 
know where she went." 

"She hasn't gone to America?" 

"I don't know." 

Mrs. Hamel burst into a sudden angry gaiety. 

"To America ! Oh, that's too hideously comical. 
I don't think people, however infatuated, would 
elope to America. They'll be held up at Ellis 



MRS. HAMEL'S THUMB DOWN 261 

Island ! They'll be deported ! Oh, it's all non- 
sense, Hilda, it's all nonsense." 

"Oh, Mrs. Hamel, it isn't nonsense." 

"Don't keep saying things like that. They vex 
me. I can't imagine why you should tell me at 
all ? " 

"I meant — Nelly was my friend — I thought 
perhaps — if you knew — that you'd set him free?" 

"Set him free?" Mrs. Hamel's eyes were very 
bright. "If what you say is true he seems to have 
a considerable share of freedom, as it is. What 
more do they want?" 

"You won't divorce him ? " 

"Do what?" asked Mrs. Hamel. 

Hilda hesitatingly pushed the word forward. 

"Divorce him." 

"My dear Hilda, have you taken leave of your 
senses ? Why, pray, should I divorce him ? " 

"Well, I thought," Hilda stammered lamely, her 
fiery speeches had somehow been effectively 
quenched. " I thought if a man wanted to be free 
— if it had happened to me — I mean — I should let 
him go if he wanted to." 

" How quite extraordinary. You speak as if a 
man should be divorced for wanting to be. He 
has no right to wish to be free, don't you under- 
stand that ? " 

"Yes, but if he does? And besides, Nelly — — " 

"She did not consider me before running away 
with him, why should I consider her now ? " 

"It would be kind. It would be the only decent 
thing to do." 

" Decent ! To divorce, decent ! " 



262 THE CHORUS 

It was magnificent, it was superb. She went 
on — 

"Besides, how do you know he wants his free- 
dom ? The girl has thrown herself at his head. 
He should surely have some chance of changing his 
mind. Men are so weak. They are led by their 
passions. But because a man has the misfortune 
to conceive an infatuation for a low, vulgar woman, 
that should hardly be a reason for casting him 
off altogether. It might ruin him utterly. It would 
be merciless, uncharitable ! " 

Now it was in something of this strain that 
Hilda's own thoughts were racing, but they advo- 
cated by a strange coincidence the case for a divorce. 

IMrs. Hamel w-ent on— 

"If my husband tells me himself that he loves 
another woman, if he asks me to set him free, I 
might do so, but I should have to regard the case 
in all its aspects and use my wisdom to help his 
troubled mind. After all, there is such a thing 
as religion, Hilda. Clearly if it is right for a 
woman to cleave to her husband while all is well 
with him, it should be doubly her duty to stay by 
him when he has sinned? But Tony has said 
nothing to me of this, and as he has not told me 
it seems dishonourable for me to know. Therefore 
I shall try and ask God to give me the power — " 
her voice shook for a moment — "to put what you 
have told me from my mind. As to the girl, her 
rights, her sufferings, are between herself and the 
man for whom she has so sadly forgotten herself. 
I could not help her if I would. M)^ duty is to 
my husband. Even if I did not love him he would 
have this claim on me. I must try to save him 



MRS. HAMEL'S THUMB DOWN 263 

from himself. My heart and conscience both teach 
me wiiat to do, and I shall do it." 

She sank back among the pillows, a faint flush 
lighting- her face. She was certainly more difficult 
to conquer than Hilda had supposed. 

"That means you will do nothing?" the girl 
asked. 

Mrs. Hamel closed her eyes in sign of assent. 
This had the secondary effect of ending the inter- 
view. 

Hilda turned to go. 

"Good-bye," she said, "I am sorry for having 
disturbed you." 

The Beauty made no reply. 

Hilda moved through the boudoir and out into 
the corridor, reflecting that obedience to one's con- 
science and the sweetness of revenge do not usually 
live in so much harmony together. 



CHx\PTER XXV 

FLATNESS 

She might as well go down to Elkins's and pack, 
thought Hilda. The great house with the pale 
morning shadows reminded her of a school during 
the holidays. It had a desolate feeling. Already 
they had begun to shroud the gay furniture in 
white cerecloths. It was as if someone had died. 
She stepped slowly down the wide staircase. 
Should she seek out Miss Fitch and describe the 
interview ? But she was in no mood for raillery. 
Oh, this being left behind ! 

Steven Young's voice broke in upon the silence. 

"And what are you doing here at this hour?" 

He was very fresh-looking, with ears pink from 
the bath, very domestic-looking with house-shoes 
on his feet. She had never seen him before except 
with shiny pumps or walking shoes. 

Her sad eyes travelled up and met his. 

"You don't mean to say you're going away at 
this hour? This is a general dissolution." 

"I'm going down the hill to pack." 

"Come and help me eat my bacon first, and then 
I'll come and help you pack. Think how nice that 
will be." 

"It's very tempting, but I've a train to catch." 

They had reached the dining-room door. 

"Do come in," he urged her, and pathetically, 
264 



FLATNESS 265 

"I'm so afraid of Farrow. Just think, I'm all 
alone. It's past ten o'clock. I shan't dare to let 
him know I'm down. I shall have to drink cold 
coffee." 

"It's no use, my Steven; I am adamant. You'd 
better shake me warmly by the hand and say 
' good-bye.' " 

"Well, if you won't " said Steven, opening 

the door. "But I'm not going to say ' good-bye ' 
now. I'm coming to pack, you know." 

He passed in through the door. 

It was nice to have someone to be friends with; 
it was nice to be going home again. She was 
breathless all at once for whipping winds and 
waves with their teeth showing. She wanted them 
as another type of girl might want a shoulder to 
cry on. 

Half-way down the hill she stopped for a moment 
and then went on again. It had just occurred to 
her that Steven expected to find Nelly at Elkins's. 
She had been thinking that everyone knew of the 
flight by this time. 

In her present mood she felt no bitterness. It 
was natural that everyone should have fallen in 
love with Nelly. She had fallen in love with her 
herself at their first meeting. And it was, after 
all, only the hand that Steven Young had kissed ! 

Packing to go home ! What a tame ending ! 
What transformation had she imagined the year 
would accomplish ? But here she was, just her 
own self, with the same brown hair and cheerful 
brown eyes, cramming her clothes into a box, her 
books, her boots ; squeezing damp sponge and 
loofa, remembering her tooth-brush and hot-water 



266 THE CHORUS 

bottle, just as she had done on twenty other occa- 
sions when the unadventurous buzzing wheel of her 
life had spun her back to Ballygrawna. 

Coming downstairs wath more books (she was 
packing the bulk of her belongings in the sitting- 
room) she encountered Steven just entering the 
sunlit square of the door. 

"Hullo!" he said. "What can I do to be 
useful ? " 

He took the books from her hands and began to 
read the names on the backs. "What a revolution- 
ary collection ! And a Maxwell's Rebellion. Is 
it illustrated? " 

"If you really want to be useful," said Hilda, 
"you might write some labels." 

Obediently he sat down to the table. She ran 
upstairs for more things. On her coming down 
again he asked — 

"I say, Where's Nelly?" 
"She's gone." 

She tried to hush all importance from her voice. 
"Oh, but this is too rotten!" said Steven. 
"When did she go? I most particularly wanted 
to say good-bye to her. I don't even know where 
she lives." Then, catching sight of Hilda's embar- 
rassed face: "Is anything wrong?" 

"She climbed out of the window," said Hilda. 
"I locked her in her room, but she would go; 
nothing would stop her." 

"But what possessed her — w-hy should you lock 
her in her room? What's the matter?" 
He was profoundly interested now. 
"She didn't go alone, Steven. Oh, I'd rather 
not talk iibout it." 



FLATNESS 267 

" Not alone ! You mean she was going with 
someone." His head incHned in the direction of 
The Height. "You mean she was going 

with " He left the name a blank, his jaw 

dropping. 

"Oh, Steven, it's all so miserable. Everything 
is spoiled ! " cried Hilda. 

"No, it's not; no, it's not," said Steven testily. 
"\\niy should you say that?" 

"It makes me feel so wretched." 

"Me, too," said Steven. "Envy, I suppose; 
blighting jealousy, being left out. Cheer up, you 
fool ! " He gave his chest a thump. 

The summer day outside seemed to have gone 
cold. 

"God give them happiness," he said lightly. 

Mrs. Elkins rapped at the door and thrust her 
head round it. 

"Might I speak to you a minute. Miss?" She 
advanced into the room as she continued: "One 
of the lads picked this up, Miss, down by the gate 
here. I made sure it was Miss Hayes's. Such a 
way to carry on — excuse me. Miss Concannon — 
climbing out of windows and running wild about 
the countryside; and not the first time either, I'll 
be bound." 

Hilda took the small object from Mrs. Elkins, 
while the stream of eloquence continued — 

"Idleness never did no good to anything — man, 
woman or beast," said Mrs. Elkins; "first day she 
come here I doubted she was up to no good. 
' People don't look like that for nothing,' I 
thought to myself. ' That's no ordinary honest 
prettiness,' I thought; if you'll excuse me, Miss, 



268 THE CHORUS 

'tain't wholesome. I'm sorry for all the trouble 
she's caused you. It's my opinion she isn't worth 
it. I wouldn't say a word to worry Miss Con- 
cannon." She turned to Steven, standing gravely 
listening. "A nicer young lady I've never had to 
deal with. Not only as she doesn't ask for things 
she shouldn't have, but she don't ask for lots of 
things as she should have. Not that the other 
young lady was any trouble in the 'ouse ; she was 
a trouble to my mind. I can't help seeing what's 
going on. I've eyes in my head same as other 
people." 

There appeared to be no end to Mrs. Elkins's 
discourse. Hilda said — 

"Thank you for bringing me this. I'll send it 
on to her. (If I only could !) We should give 
the boy something." She found her own bag and 
produced five shillings. When the door had closed 
she opened Nelly's purse. "There's quite a lot 
in it : over three pounds. She must have been 
wanting this." 

Her face was pale w'ith contrition. The result 
of her fit of morality appeared with what seemed 
an exaggerated ruthlessness. 

" Where have they gone — do you know ? " 
Steven's voice was hushed. 

"To America, I suppose," said Hilda. 

"Hardly," said Steven. 

"Perhaps she'll write to me," said Hilda. 

But even as she said it she knew that that would 
not happen. They looked at one another, conscious 
of their helplessness. 

"I wish I hadn't tried to stop her," said Hilda, 
thinking aloud, "or that I'd succeeded." 



FLATNESS 269 

She began to put some more things into the 
trunks. 

"There's someone from The Height to speak to 
you," said Mrs. Elkins, rapping on the door. Her 
voice, robbed of its discourse, had a decided asperity 
about it. 

Hilda found Mrs. Hamel's maid with a note. 

"Madam was anxious you should have it, Miss 
Concannon. I was to give it into your hands 
myself." 

Hilda thanked her and saw her aw^ay again. 

The envelope contained two enclosures, one in 
Mrs. Hamel's green ink, saying, "You see you 
were wrong. But as you were wrong I forgive 
you " — a trivial matter thus dismissed — the other a 
telegram from Anthony which said: "Crossing 
Majestic, Southampton." It had been handed in 
at Dover. 

Hilda and Steven studied it together. 

"If you went to Southampton you might just 
catch them," she said. 

"That was what I was thinking," said Steven; 
"if I would be any use." 

"You could give her the purse. You could hear 
where she was going. You could tell her I was 
sorry for making an ass of myself." 

Her eyes were dancing with animation. They 
had not reached the end yet by any means. 

"Where's the ABC?" 

Headlong they hunted, and found it — 

"Waterloo — there must be a million trains. 
Here, if you caught the 12.45? But can you? 
No, you can't. Well, the 1.18, then. There's 
a good train that reaches Southampton soon 



270 THE CHORUS 

after four. Oh, Steven, wire to me — to Liver- 
pool." 

"I will," said Steven, "I will. But look here, 
I haven't a farthing — not enough to take me there 
and back." He dived his hands through his 
pockets. 

"That doesn't matter," cried Hilda. "I've 
plenty of farthings. Thank God for my detestable 
father." 

She thrust the money into his hand. He was 
out of the house. He was gone. He would manage 
it somehow. She would have an answer to her 
ravenous questionings. 

The train moved smoothly, slowly into Lime 
Street. The lamps slid by in the darkness like 
beads pushed along a string. Hilda, leaning out 
of her window, searched the platform for the 
telegraph boy. There he was. "Concannon!" 
They were calling her name. She ripped open 
the pink envelope. 

"A. alone," it said. "Going with him America. 
Steven." 

That was all : the question ; the answer. Turn- 
ing, she began to take her baggage out of the 
rack. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

LONDON — LONELINESS— THE DANGERS OF THE STREETS 
— THE ARM OF COINCIDENCE STRETCHING IN ALL 
DIRECTIONS — THE HAPPY ENDING 

A WEST wind blowing half a hurricane caught 
Hilda as she emerged from the South Kensington 
Museum and blew her, together with some yellow 
leaves, down the steps and into the street. A tawny 
sunset shone on the wet pavements. The omni- 
buses ground by, spurting thick mud from under 
their clumsy wheels. It was London and it was 
February. 

With the great mild wind pushing her, Hilda 
turned eastwards. vShe debated with herself whether 
she should take a 'bus or walk. There was no 
hurrying reason for taking a 'bus, but if she 
walked, she would not arrive at her rooms till after 
dark, and familiar as they were growing to her, 
she could not entirely banish a small quaking that 
she felt at their silence and faintly gleaming win- 
dows. She no longer groped for matches now as 
she used to at first, anticipating, in the pricking 
nerves of her spine, contact, perhaps, with the cold 
hand of a corpse, or with some running "leggy" 
thing, but it was still with an agonized awareness 
of the empty bedroom at her back or of a cupboard 

271 



272 THE CHORUS 

with a watchful door that she scraped her "vesta" 
on the match-box and saw the green glare of the 
incandescent gas flood the room. The wet, brown 
streets, however, and the lamps showing primrose- 
coloured and ineffectual in the sunset, were too 
beautiful to leave. She buttoned her coat across 
under her chin and tugged her soft hat firmly above 
her eyes. Her leather wallet with some copyings 
she had made swung on her left wrist. Her hands 
were in her pockets. Head erect, stepping easily, 
she felt vigorous and alive. It filled her with 
elation to be marching across London like this 
when the rest of humanity was sitting indoors at 
its tea. 

She and the wind seemed in harmony and 
travelling together. The moist air made little 
ringlets of the locks about her face, chilled her 
cheeks to rose-colour, set her eyes dancing. In- 
dependence had its charm as well as its terrors, and 
the charm was just now the greater. This walk of 
hers would enable her to make but one meal of 
tea and supper too, no small advantage when you 
have to do all your own "chars." How splendidly 
compact she felt, a small world in herself swinging 
through space. 

Dusk drew down and clouds moved across the 
sunset. Now and again rain sprinkled. The 
'buses roared by with lighted rain-spotted windows 
steamy with crowded breaths, damp clothing and 
umbrellas. It was better to be outside in the drizzle 
than in that. Six o'clock and pitch darkness found 
her at her own door. 

Hilda's lodging was in a street that runs beside 



LONDON— LONELINESS 273 

the Tottenham Court Road. It was in a con- 
spicuously "low " neighbourhood. The house door 
had no knocker upon it, the letter-box gaped 
hideously naked of brazen rim. It suggested to 
Hilda inevitably a toothless mouth eaten by disease. 
Rats might have gnawed it. At one side was a 
vertical row of dirty bell handles. A key inserted, 
the open door revealed a dirty hall lit by a bead 
of gas in a wire cage, and immediately before the 
door a sunken square that had possibly in the 
remote past enclosed a door-mat. Now Hilda reck- 
lessly tramped over it to carry all the mud adhering 
to her shoes up the wooden stairs. Somewhere in 
the basement lived an old woman who on a Satur- 
day would be found slopping them with dismal 
water. 

Hilda's apartments were on the top floor and 
consisted of a tiny bedroom and a capacious studio, 
the two inter-communicating by a third door. The 
door of the bedroom faced the landing, but was 
kept permanently bolted upon the inside. The 
second door, the door of the studio, Hilda now 
unlocked herself. She was warm and pleasantly 
tired with walking. It was nice to be home again. 

Having scrubbed her muddy shoes vigorously 
upon her own mat, she tip-toed across the floor and 
lit the gas, then the gas-fire and the ring under 
the kettle. That done she removed her gloves and 
drew the curtains. The room was comfortable and 
pretty. Thanks to the Concannon mills, she had 
been able to furnish it as she wished. Beside the 
door was the furnace, and a strong deal table stood 
beside it under the second window, the work-table. 

T 



274 THE CHORUS 

On the other side of the door was the cupboard, 
whose creaking- had often made her shudder. In 
the corner beside it hung a broom and a dustpan. 
Beside the bedroom door was a tall-boy chest, con- 
taining all her clothing and the things of her trade. 
The bedroom held precisely five things : a bed, a 
looking-glass, a washstand, a small dressing-table 
and a chair. 

Hilda took off her wet hat, shook it and hung it 
on a peg on the door. Her coat and skirt followed. 
Her muddy shoes were flung into a corner. Active 
as a fencer in her close knickerbockers, she spread 
her tablecloth and made her tea. Two eggs nest- 
ling in a paper bag were transferred to a saucepan. 
A loaf of bread, an unshapely lump of butter with 
crumbs sticking in it and a very stale morsel of 
cake (a cake lasts so long when one eats it alone) 
were placed upon the table. A cup and saucer, 
two plates, a jug with a little milk in it, salt, another 
plate for the teapot. 

Then while the kettle was singing she tore off 
her blouse and put on a loose house-dress. She 
hesitated, but did not tidy her hair. She had made 
enough concessions to civilization for one evening. 
Opening a volume of Strindberg, she read it steadily 
while she ate her tea. Sometimes she gave a little 
snort that she told herself was amusement, but was 
really indignation. 

Hilda had been settled in her new life for seven 
weeks. The loneliness was still rather exciting, 
but it had its drawbacks. There was a terrible want 
of happenings about the days. vShe needed the 
occasional help of a word: "Do this," or "Hurry 



LONDON— LONELINESS 275 

up and finish that." She fek herself ready to shp 
into iinenjoyable idleness. 

At first she had shirked her metal-work in the 
mock industry of housework, that narcotic of active 
brains, but two rooms even by her inexperience 
could be kept clean in an hour or so. She so 
needed orders. There was not much fun in making 
things for people who could only praise without 
appreciating like her Ulster friends, and the small 
thing needed for a cousin's wedding present was 
soon done. She missed the business that Tony 
Hamel's interest was to have given her. He had 
promised introductions and work for her on his own 
account, but she had received neither and could not 
ask for them. The quarrel that her mind had had 
with Tony gave her a sense of isolation from her 
London friends. Time passed with desperate swift- 
ness while she was doing nothing. To make one's 
bed, to shop and bring home one's parcels, to get 
a look at the Limoges enamels by daylight, to read 
the week's papers and the last Conrad, to "do" 
a gallery and to "get in" a little fresh air — and 
the week was over. She used to go to Kensington 
Gardens sometimes on her way from the Museum, 
and eat her lunch under the deserted trees. She 
loved to watch the dainty little fuchsias of children 
bowling their hoops. She had a shame-faced 
adoration for clean babies, they were so much 
pleasanter to look at, spite of all fine theorizing, 
than the screaming brats that hop-scotched and tip- 
catted about her in Soho. She longed to clean the 
dirty ones, and she sometimes gave them sweets, 
but she could not pretend to love them. 



276 THE CHORUS 

"Poverty must make people odious," she justified 
herself, "if it didn't, there would be no reason for 
getting rid of it." 

Kensington was too far for more than an occa- 
sional pilgrimage, and if she was to get a share of 
exercise at all she must walk in the streets. For 
the most part she crossed Oxford Street and down 
the Charing Cross Road to the book-shops. "This 
season's hats" and satin hroches did not interest 
her. She passed as quickly as she could the furni- 
ture shops with their mahogany that seemed to 
have been dipped in treacle and their "Chippen- 
dale " sideboards standing as if on corns, but by 
the book-counters she lingered, feeling at one with 
all the quiet tweed-clad beings passing the hours 
with an opiate of unwanted volumes, bent of head, 
absorbed. Hilda would sometimes lift a volume 
and simulate an equal absorption ; but she was con- 
scious all the while of the people near her, she 
could not, as these others seemed to do, open a 
door with an opening book, and enter a distant 
place. However, she found some to be coveted 
"remainders," books of modern essays and George 
Moore's Untilled Field, and in a threepenny poetry 
box Ardent Keath's Lute of Chrysoprase, which 
caused her gloating ecstasies of amusement. 

One day, while she was looking over some 
Beardsley and Bakst prints in a shop window, she 
became conscious of someone standing near her, 
a person who differed in some way from the men 
who usually stood beside her. His presence was 
so definite that she had a confused notion that he 
must be someone she knew, so she turned a little 



LONDON— LONELINESS 277 

and raised her eyes disconcertingly to find herself 
looking into the yellow-rimmed eyes of a huge, 
pock-marked man with a forked beard, who had 
evidently been expecting that very encounter. 
Feeling confused and flurried, Hilda turned away, 
disengaged herself from the row of readers and 
started for home. It was with difficulty that she 
did not run. Her instinct was for flight. Realiza- 
tion of this came upon her, and with customary 
self-control she lessened her pace, another moment 
and she was calling herself a fool. That meeting 
of the eyes must have been as accidental on his 
part as it was on hers. To confirm her folly she 
looked over her shoulder. The huge man was 
strolling in her wake. Again she was plunged in 
terror. She felt in her pocket for her latchkey and 
gripped it with her fingers. Through the forest she 
fled screaming (outwardly she walked across Oxford 
Street), and across Oxford Street strolled his 
Satanic majesty. Down Tottenham Court Road 
they went and to the left past the "Tour Eiffel" 
("confirming," as Hilda thought afterwards, "his 
worst suspicions"). In sight of her own door her 
control failed her, and she made an undignified 
bolt for the steps; but at the threshold she paused, 
he was not the sort of person one liked to know 
one's address, and stood panting and tremulous, 
waiting for him. He smiled most affably, showing 
red lips and sharp white teeth, 

" How dare you follow me ? " whispered Hilda 
in a blaze. 

He took his pointed boot from the lowest step 
and moved back on to the pavement. 



278 THE CHORUS 

"Pardon, Mees," he said, raising his hat. 

"If you come round here again," snarled Hilda, 
"I'll tell the police." 

Mr. Satan went away with himself. Hilda let 
herself in and slammed the door. She sat down 
on the stairs for a moment and laughed weakly at 
herself. 

" Get thee anywhere, but behind me, Satan," she 
murmured. 

She did not go out again that day. 

However, she found the lesson useful. She never 
sought refuge in flight again. Instead she met the 
advances of strange men with a stare and a distinct : 
"Were you speaking to me?" that made her feel 
quite sorry for them, they looked so sheepish. " I 
suppose," she thought, "the lifting of the hat is 
the tribute vice pays to virtue. Why should any 
dreary little clerk with a moustache imagine I want 
to hug him ? One would hardly touch those people 
to rescue them from drowning ! " 

She was very seldom accosted. There was 
nothing in her quick walk that resembled the pro- 
tuberant glide of the streets, "Only a duffer could 
mistake me," she thought. "Danger! there's no 
danger in the street, except poverty. If that were 
done away with there'd be precious little need for 
rescue work. Who would go with a shop- walker 
to the Oxford if she could afford to do anything 
pleasanter? Immorality ! It's simple dullness ! " 

The thought of Nelly came back often and 
always hurt her. She longed for knowledge that all 
had not gone as badly as she feared. She scanned 
the picture postcards and the "movies" for her 



LONDON— LONELINESS 279 

face. It would be the blessedest relief to know 
that she was a successful actress or married to a 
lord. 

It would lift all the weight of guilt from her 
conscience. But no eager scrutiny found Nelly 
anywhere among swathed furs and feathers. Once 
only did Hilda see her semblance, and that was in 
the Euston Road. She saw a slim figure coming 
towards her, a figure in a long w'oollen coat, bright- 
haired like Nelly, and w^th a big felt hat bent 
bonnet-wise about her head and held in place with 
a veil. For one joyous moment Hilda prepared 
to hail her, to fling arms about her and bury a 
repentant face upon her neck, but as the girl came 
close she perceived that she had been mistaken. 
This girl was not Nelly. She was unutterably 
hideous. She looked as if some brutal hand had 
set upon her soft prettiness and wiped it out. The 
grey eyes under the dark brows blazed with 
agonized defiance. From brow to chin there was 
nothing but a pinch of flesh. She had no nose. 

"It's not that," Hilda told herself, with shaking 
lips, "it will never be that; but I'd like her to 
know I was sorry for interfering, though it 
wouldn't be any consolation to her if she did, dear 
God ! " 

A chastened Flilda, but by no means a reformed 
one. That meeting kept her shuddering all night. 
It was with an ecstatic rush of excitement, excite- 
ment closely similar to that with which a ship- 
wrecked mariner sights a sail, that she ran into, as 
the saying is, Miss Fitch one afternoon outside 
Mudie's in New Oxford Street. Miss Fitch's 



280 THE CHORUS 

greeting, though less thrilled with intensity and 
hampered by a bundle of books under one of her 
elbows, was satisfactorily warm. 

"Why, my dear child," she exclaimed; "what 
has become of you all this time ? " 

She slipped an arm through Hilda's, and the}- 
turned towards Tottenham Court Road together. 

"Come and see my digs," said Hilda, "and have 
tea." 

It was very pleasant to have a companion again. 
Hilda squeezed the thin wrist against her ribs. 

"I am glad I met you. These last months, I am 
just realizing it, have been like solitary confinement. 
I haven't spoken to a soul, do you know, except in 
shops, since I settled down in London." 

She dragged Miss Fitch into De Dry's for some 
cakes, and then they set out homewards. Miss 
Fitch explaining as they went that she had hidden 
herself all the winter to finish her book on Fanny 
Burney. 

"Yes, Fm taking to biography in my old age 
— Purple Paramours and that sort of thing — but 
I think you'll like Fanny, and Fve got some 
tremendously good new chair covers to help me 
with the atmosphere." 

They picked their way across Fitzroy Street, 
and: "This is the house," said Hilda proudly, 
stabbing in her key. 

"What in the world, my darling girl, made you 
come to live here?" asked Miss Fitch. 

"Isn't it the right place to live?" asked Hilda. 

"Isn't it a rather — well — dangerous neighbour- 
hood?" asked Miss Fitch. 



LONDON— LONELINESS 281 

"Oh, nonsense," cried Hilda, "it's as safe as the 
bank." 

She fek annoyed with the ItaHan gentleman of 
the first floor for choosing this moment for thrusting 
out a curious, mustachioed head, to survey with 
astonishment Miss Fitch's elegant blue serge and 
feathered hat. 

"Here we are," said Hilda, opening the studio 
door. "Tell me it's nice." 

It was undeniably nice. 

"Delightful," said Miss Fitch, "and so aloof. 
What a courageous person you are, Hilda." 

"Indeed I'm not," said Hilda, glowing with 
pride, "it's a very tame existence, I assure you." 
She lit the fire and put on the kettle. Tea-cups 
were soon rattling on to the table. Miss Fitch 
watched her. Presently she said, "This is rather 
different from our last meeting. Do you remember 
it ? " 

Both of them became acutely conscious of their 
last troubled morning together. The details flashed 
in painful brightness through Hilda's mind. She 
felt her ears growing red as she bent above the 
kettle. 

"You know we were all completely mistaken 
about that affair. Tony went unaccompanied." 

"I know," said Hilda, "I wish he hadn't." 

" How typical of you to wish that in the end ! 
But things are much better as they are. And one 
bit of news you'll be glad to hear. Steven Young's 
becoming quite famous. He's had a long- poem in 
the Century Magazine; and the Atlantic Monthly 
has taken ten short stories of his. His American 



282 THE CHORUS 

connection is a sure thing. It was a lucky inspira- 
tion of Tony's to take him to America." 

"Luck," thought Hilda, "what a rum accident." 
Aloud she said, "That's splendid. Have you seen 
him?" 

"Yesterday," said Miss Fitch. "He's only just 
back. And Anthony too. We've had our first 
reunion down at Otterbridge. Really the house is 
nicer than ever. How glad I am I met you to-day, 
dear child, it just completes things." 

"And if she hadn't met me," thought Hilda, "I 
should just have disappeared from their view as 
completely as Nelly has." 

"They were talking about you," said Miss Fitch, 
"and praising your work tremendously. And that's 
something interesting, by the way — Pandolefsky 
has been given his conge. He got one of the 
housemaids into a scrape." 

"I want to laugh," said Hilda; "who sacked 
him ? " 

"Well, Erica, I suppose, was the moving spirit," 
said Miss Fitch. "It is rather funny, I agree, but 
you'll have to stop seeing jokes like that if you are 
coming back to The Height. No one cares for 
too elaborate a memory. But don't you see, my 
child, the plan I have made for you now that 
Pandolefsky is gone ? " 
Hilda shook her head. 

"Oh, well. I won't say anything about it, but 
you'll see." She nodded a satisfied head. "Now 
that Erica will know you are alone she'll ask you 
down again, and you'll come, won't you?" 

Hilda poured hot water into the tea-pot before 



LONDON— LONELINESS 283 

replying-. She would have liked to be able to shake 
the dust of all these worthless ones from her feet, 
but they were too attractive. In less than a minute 
she had decided to be one of them. What was the 
good of crying over spilt milk ? Society heals over 
its painful memories as healthy flesh heals over a 
wound. Wasn't it a beggarly sort of thing to keep 
a wound open ? 

"I suspect I'll come if I'm asked," she said 
soberly. 

Then she asked for the others. xVrdent Keath, 
the Ecksteins, ]Mrs. Arden. They were all just as 
usual. Mrs. Arden had been having cooks and 
housemaids all the winter, and now she was having 
a baby. ^liss Fitch could not imagine where people 
found monotony in domestic life. As far as she 
could see it was horror upon horror's heels, a gutter 
blocked or something wrong with the fuse-box. In- 
finite variety. Mrs. Arden, said Miss Fitch, would 
be delighted to see Hilda. So would they all. 
Might she have another cup of tea, and what 
delicious cakes Hilda had bought for her, she'd 
no notion such delights were to be found in 
Bloomsbury. 

All the while Hilda kept thinking with a fury 
of revolt. She remembered the adulation these 
people had showered upon Nelly less than a year 
ago. It was only to please Anthony, after all. It 
had been his praise they were praising, his love 
they were loving, him they were flattering, as if 
Nelly had been the work of his hands. How would 
they have behaved if he and Nelly had gone away 
together, as they would have done but for her own 



284 THE CHORUS 

besotted interference, if the girl had been installed 
mistress, perhaps, of a second "Height"? There 
would have been much talk of "charity" then, of 
"preferring not to judge," of "sins of the flesh 
being no sins." Mockeries and upbraidings raced 
through her head. Miss Fitch was saying: "We 
were so afraid that you were dropping us altogether. 
We hated the thought of your seeing too much of 
the wrong kind of people. We thought you and 
that girl were probably still in partnership." 

"I wish we were," said Hilda; "I shouldn't feel 
so despicably mean then. I don't even know where 
she is." 

"Hilda, you're a great goose. Don't you see 
that that's providential ? " 

"I feel there is blood on my head," said Hilda, 
smiling sadly. 

"Well, it isn't my blood, anyway," said Miss 
Fitch, "and Fm not going to be lugubrious. Sup- 
pose you'd had your way and Erica had divorced 
him, whose blood would you have been suffering 
from then ? " 

"Not Mrs. Hamel's," said Hilda, "because she 
hasn't any." 

"Oh, rubbish! " said Miss Fitch. "And if you 
are so oppressed by bad works let me tell you of a 
good one. Erica is much improved by the little 
shaking you gave her. She was livelier than Pve 
known her yesterday night. Evidently it was a case 
of the child who wants slapping. You supplied 
the remedy." 

"Oh, well," said Flilda. 

"Oh, well?" said Miss Fitch. 



LONDON— LONELINESS 285 

"I suppose in time I'll stop feeling ashamed of 
myself." 

Miss Fitch embraced her affectionately as they 
parted. 

Next day brought Steven Young hot-foot to repay 
his debt to her and to recount his adventures. It 
was a saga of triumph. He had forgotten the con- 
tributive cause of his good fortune. 

"You know, Hamel is a great man," he assured 
her. "You've no notion how splendid he seemed 
when he was alone like that." 

Hilda's mouth curved disparagingly. 

"You needn't have a knife into him, Hilda. 
He's most tremendously sad under all the liveliness 
and good humour." 

"Did he say anything about Nelly?" 

"He said very little about her. He loves her as 
he loves all the charming and tender things in this 
world. Hilda, I shall be mad with you if you 
sneer." 

Steven could see in his mind's eye Hamel sitting 
beside him on the deck with hat on knee and wind 
lifting his thick hair. "Of course I loved her. She 
was made to be loved. I can't blame myself for 
that. But I'm too old and too tame or, I begin to 
think, too effete for a romantic adventure. Civil- 
ization puts a kind of moral impotence into all of 
us. We desire a thing, we stretch out our hands 
for it, but when it's in our grasp we don't know 
what to do with it. We need a static pursuit, a 
kind of Grecian Urn love that never knows fulfil- 
ment. It's not fear or self-control that stays us, 
but self-criticism, an onlooking from which we 



286 THE CHORUS 

cannot escape. It's more disconcerting than the 
eye of God. It takes a man of strong character 
nowadays to be a rake. Not that I was that even 
at my basest. Twenty years ago I might have 
been different, less scrupulous or less self-centred, 
certainly happier. As it is I fled not from tempta- 
tion but from the cessation of it. Perhaps I have 
not done much harm. I taught her the sweetest 
part of love for a while, anyway. She might have 
had a worse teacher." 

He put back his handsome head to feel the wind 
on his throat, and sunlight made sharply visible 
some little white hairs among the bronze of his 
temples. 

"He's so kind. He's full of gentleness. He 
might have behaved so infinitely worse. I don't 
think there's much use in judging people." 

Hilda could have shaken Steven ; but after all 
he had come quickly to see her, and why should 
she want him to quarrel with his friend ? INIiss 
Fitch was quite right. One did not want too 
elaborate a memory. 

She heard about the American summer, the 
bathing and boating, the camping in the moun- 
tains. The villa Tony had seen completed for the 
Coonmanrigs. She took Nelly's purse after he had 
gone and put it away in a drawer — to remind her 
from time to time and at long intervals how expert 
she had grown at forgetting. But it had a sur- 
prising moment of usefulness first. 

A few days later came the letter that Miss Fitch 
had prophesied, and with it the suggestion that the 
Hamels would like to have Hilda to till the post left 



LONDON— LONELINESS 287 

vacant by Pandolefsky. This was glory and an 
awakening of the world indeed. With headlong 
rap_^re she accepted the position and prepared to 
return to The Height the very next week-end. She 
fled across to Miss Fitch to impart the good news, 
and they arranged to travel down together. 

Now there was nothing but the land of milk and 
honey before her. No more lonely walks, no more 
fears, no more aimlessness. Taking her last look 
at the muddy March streets, her glances stroked the 
houses with affection, the foggy evening blue, the 
little doves' wings of shadows onCatesby's chimney- 
pots. She was so very glad to be leaving them 
behind. 

Shop windows were beginning to show an occa- 
sional light, home-going workers to crowd the 
pavements. She walked along blissfully presaging 
what marvels of dexterity her hands were about to 
prove themselves, what contentment was going to 
be hers. She passed the Tube Station in Cran- 
bourne Street, busy with imagined hammerings and 
firings, grindings and gildings. In this mood her 
eyes fell on some jewellery in a pawn-shop window 
— pinchbeck emeralds, agate-topped snuff-boxes, 
Sheffield pepper-pots, cut glass decanters, purple 
glasses, a frayed fire-screen, spoons of Dutch silver, 
square rims of brooches pearl-set, miniature of a 
lady in a yellow turban, a pewter ladle, a china 
group that was never in Chelsea, a torn lace ruffle, 
a tray of ear-rings, watches, buckles, rings. Hilda's 
eyes fastened upon one among them. 

"Surely I know enough about my trade by this 
time to know that that's good," she thought. She 



288 THE CHORUS 

pushed open the door and entered the shop. In 
there it was ahiiost dark. The Hght fiUered in 
beams through the miscellany of the window 
shelves. An old man with wrinkled hands was 
reading the afternoon's paper. He raised moist 
eyes and looked at her above his spectacles. 

" I wanted to look at a ring that I see in the 
window," said Hilda. 

The old man rose with a grudging air as if he 
resented her interruption, and lifted out the tray 
shakily. 

"That's the one," said Hilda, "what do you want 
for this?" 

"Two pound ten," said the old man, looking hard 
at her, "it's gold." 

Hilda looked in her purse mechanically, for she 
knew she had not so much with her, and (provok- 
ing) the banks were by this time shut. She must 
have the ring. That she had set her soul on. She 
thought of Nelly's purse lying useless in her flat. 
That was the thing ! For one night she would 
borrow. 

"Very well," she told the old man, "put the ring 
aside for me. I'll call back for it." 

vShe disguised her eagerness a little — after all she 
was born in a commercial city. 

She was back in half an hour, breathless and 
rejoicing. 

"Two pounds ten, you said? Right." The ring 
was handed across the counter. "It's frightfully 
cheap," said Hilda. 

"I'm glad you think so," said the old man 
sarcastically. Seen close to it was even more 



LONDON— LONELINESS 289 

wonderful than she liad supposed. A Httle wood 
spirit with a lamp ! It was entrancing-. 

"I say, I suppose you don't know where this 
came from ? " she asked. 

"We don't ask questions," said the old man, 
presenting a blighting indifference to her enthu- 
siasm. "But it's not old, if you want to know." 
He thought that would disappoint her. He re- 
venged himself for her "cheap." 
"I should think not, indeed." 
She hastened into the street again. Her new 
possession was a triumph. If that was modern 
work there must be a man somewhere doing as good 
stuff as Tony Hamel. How excited he'd be when 
he saw it. Wliat fun if they found out who it was, 
and the man was as wonderful as his work. He 
must be a man of genius anyhow. Perhaps they 
might help him to fame and fortune. Perhaps he 
was handsome. Her pleasant fancies increased as 
she journeyed homeward. 

Miss Fitch was sitting composedly with her toes 
on a foot-warmer when Hilda burst into the train 
at W^alerloo. 

"Janet, I've made such a find! It's simply too 
wonderful. An unknown genius. I'm suffocating 
with enthusiasm. Just look here." 

She flung her bag on to the seat, stripped off her 
glove and displayed her treasure. 

"There! What do you think of that? And on 
top of all the other good fortune. Am not I a lucky 
beast ? " 

Miss Fitch was properly impressed with the ring. 
It certainly was marvellous. 
u 



290 THE CHORUS 

" Oh got ye this by sea or land ? 
Or got ye it off a dead man's hand ? " 

she quoted. "You must show it to Anthony 
Hamel." 

"I shall indeed. You'll see how keen he'll be. 
The man who made this was a master. The Boss 
couldn't do better himself." 

How pleasant it was to smell the country air. 
To be speeding- along- sandy roads with rain-water 
brightening- the ruts and wagtails scuttling into 
the hedges. The Height was just the same as 
Hilda had left it. Only some of the walls and 
floors were different. The music-room had gone to 
the Fannan- Wakes, and the Hanburys had got the 
dining-room. New lamps for old, perhaps, but 
the oil w'as the same. There was the same babble 
of talk in the white and blue drawing-room, the 
same group round the fire awaiting dinner. Mrs. 
Hamel, smiling more than formerly, in pale scarlet, 
Mrs. Arden, looking peaceful in grey. Ardent 
Keath, with a new volume of poetry by a natural- 
ized Syrian from Antioch, entitled The Bull 
Roarer, which was, he said, as if the manure of 
the fields found speech. 

How amusing it was to be welcomed there, to 
be part of the old instead of part of the new (which 
consisted of two tall Americans with wonderfully 
underpinned front teeth, Anthony's latest market), 
to see Steven Young in a Bond Street evening suit, 
to hear Miss Fitch laughing as usual. Nothing 
was altered. The siren singer had disappeared and 
the waters had closed over her. Presently came 
Anthony, magnificent as ever, more magnificent 



LONDON— LONELINESS 291 

even by contrast with her evil thoughts of him. 
How thriUing to have clasped his hand, to be patted 
on the shoulder ! There he was glowing with 
paternal kindliness ! Of course, she worshipped 
him, the greeting was scartely over when she 
drew off the ring and put it eagerly into his fingers. 

"Look what I found in a pawn-shop, Boss. What 
do you think of it ? " 

The ring lay upon Anthony's hand. The little 
golden Nelly in the greenwood holding up the 
lamp of truth, but the lamp, the diamond, had 
fallen out. He looked at it without speaking for 
several minutes. The group round the fire waited 
too, politely considerate of his opinion. 

For a moment Anthony was unaware of them. 

He saw again the yellow hair, felt the soft touch 
of lips coaxing at the corner of his mouth. All 
the summer of tenderness and doubt and stolen 
meetings pressed in a suffocating flood upon him. 
A passion of regret surged up as he looked into 
Hilda's waiting eyes. 

WTiat were they waiting for ? Was it a trap that 
she had set him ? The candour of the gaze denied 
a hidden thought. Oh, yes — the ring. 

"It's very charming," he said dully. 

He saw again a skirt stained at the hem with 
dust, a broken shoe with a dirty great-toe showing 
through it. 

"But, Boss, don't you think it very good? I 
thought I'd discovered a genius." 

" There's a stone missing," he said absently. He 
appeared to be half asleep. They watched him a 
little curiously. 



292 THE CHORUS 

"Don't you like it, Mr. Hamel ? I iioped you 
would think it so good," Hilda's voice roused him. 

Anthony suddenly smiled down at her. 

"The man who made it certainly had talent," 
he said, "but he bungled the setting. It didn't 
last." 

Hilda was disappointed. 

They went in to dinner. 



HARLEQUINADE 

At two o'clock on a November morning a young- 
man in an opera hat was standing beside a lamp- 
post. He was not a handsome youth, being some- 
what thick of body and full of lip, but his eyes 
were lively, his expression amiable, and there was 
a certain rosiness and roundness about him which, 
together with a curliness of hair which no rigour 
of the barber could subdue, gave him an air both 
innocent and attractive. As he stood he lightly 
tapped a foot and puckered his mouth in ghostly 
whistling with a sort of resigned impatience. His 
coat collar was turned up so that his muffler inter- 
jected a white corner between it and his left ear; 
his hands were deep in his pockets, where they 
clutched — one a book and the other a box of 
matches. He was aware of the dampness of the 
pavement through his evening shoes. He had 
smoked his last cigarette. 

The sky above the houses was dull with rain. 
Beneath each lamp a yellow strip of reflection made 
the roadway deep as a canal. The houses seemed 
to have assumed a look of deliberate blankness and 
indifference. Shutters, lace curtains, plush cur- 
tains, white curtains, ground glass, glass in pink 

293 



294 THE CHORUS 

and yellow squares, glass with two faded chrysan- 
themums in pots behind it, lifeless as so many 
coffins, baffling and ignoring him. Dark blinds, 
buflf blinds, patterned blinds, Venetian blinds — 
solely for the purpose of his hoodwinking. The 
young man tapped his foot and whistled inaudibly. 
They might make him feel foolish, but they should 
not make him go away. 

A policeman prowled down the street, flicking his 
light rhythmically into the areas. He observed 
the young man with a solemn impersonal scrutiny, 
opera hat, overcoat, patent shoes, all his right 
side, and then, more closely in passing, his back, 
shoes, overcoat, opera hat. The young man did 
not turn his head to see if his left side were 
scrutinized as thoroughly. The policeman's pre- 
sence increased his feeling of foolishness until he 
almost wriggled in his embarrassment, but he suc- 
ceeded in assuming an outward appearance of calm 
as blank, he hoped, and bafiflingly indifferent as 
that of the houses themselves, implying, by a 
slightly contemptuous drooping of the eyelids, that 
his position at that hour in that place was as 
correctly usual as their own. 

After all, their null air was also subterfuge. 
Behind the smooth walls of their hypocrisv men 
and women were at that moment sprawled in every 
attitude of sleep and nakedness. They Avere as full 
of fierceness and sloth and colour as his head was 
full of thoughts. Was not his brain, indeed, almost 
identical with number twenty-seven opposite? Did 
he not know what forms (jf furniture, what intricacy 
of ornament it held? In his memory did he not 



HARLEQUINADE 295 

grasp the entire orientation of the place as if it 
were a set scene with the bones of his own head 
for proscenium ? Dismissing- all expression from 
his face, conforming involuntarily to his surround- 
ings, he began to live again in the picture his 
memory placed before him. 

Only two hours ago he had been supping in the 
house opposite — less than two hours, for it was 
half-past twelve when he had left, when they had 
all left; an hour and a half since the Lady in 
IMauve and Miss America had smiled "Good- 
night " to him from the window of their limousine; 
since Henry Berners and George Richardson had 
slammed the door of their taxicab ; since the 
sw^arthy face of their host had smiled that sen- 
sationally dazzling smile of his from the bright 
grotto of his open door, followed by the swift 
seriousness of the shut door and the headlong 
blackness of the fanlight; an hour and a half since 
our young man had marched a\\'ay round the corner 
with emphatic steps, to return much less emphatic- 
ally (like a spy? No, not like a spy), like a good, 
kind, curly retriever dog, to take up his sentinel 
position beneath the lamp-post. 

What had been happening, he wondered, since 
his host of the black eyebrows had switched off the 
hall light and rushed upstairs? He had been in 
the devil of a rage and the devil of a hurry. 
Was that a sound from behind the obfuscating 
windows ? The young man sprang tense, his self- 
consciousness vanishing in the need for action ; 
but his straining ears caught only the spurt of a 
taxicab crossing" the Edgware T\oad away to his 



296 THE CHORUS 

left, and behind him he became aware that what 
had seemed until then utter silence was full of 
the shunting of trains in Paddington Station. 
The house opposite gave no encouragement, 
but there had been a sdund distinctly, he could 
swear to it, of breaking glass. He resumed his 
thoughts. 

The owner of No. 27 was a curious man, a 
blackness and whiteness in a neutral world. The 
Mauve Lady had said that he was the only man 
in London who still made vice attractive. "Not 
that he's really wicked, you know, but he's so 
clever, he pays such public compliments, he knows 
such a lot about clothes, and his smile is simply 
glamorous ! " She enjoyed knowing him, she 
enjoyed his dinner-parties, "always something to 
eat you can't get elsew^here " ; his theatre-parties, 
"always takes you to the thing you have to see 
and can't get tickets for "; his guests, "always the 
last new man or the next new man " — to-night they 
had been celebrating his discovery of the Leonardo, 
there was talk of a public banquet to him over 
that, tliey had dined at the Savoy and seen the 
"new thing" at the theatre; and then they had 
"trundled" back to sup at his own house and see 
some Chinese lacquer chairs he had "picked up" 
in Islington. 

He had let them himself into his panelled 
hall. 

"How I envy you this house! It would be a 
show place if sight seers had any real sense of the 
beautiful," from Lady Mauve as they mounted the 
circling stairs. 



HARLEQUINADE 297 

"Aren't you very lonely?" had asked Miss 
America, an elf in pink tulle. 

"Lonely? But why?" from their host, with his 
black eyes upon her. 

"It's such a bi_o- house. I should be afraid to 
live all by myself." 

"Nonsense!" cried the Mauve Lady. "Who 
could dare to be anything but in transports all the 
time among such lovely things?" 

So much in single file above him. 

Their host makes them sit in the lacquered 
chairs, while he heats soup for them at the table. 
The big room is full of towering shadows. The 
branching silver candlesticks light up the table like 
an altar. It is a little island of brightness among 
the old Jamaica furnishings, dark walls and 
bronzes. Over the mantelpiece is a shell-like 
fifteenth-century Madonna in a painted frame, with 
a small flame wavering before her. The rays fall 
steeply from it on to the burnished head and 
drooping shoulders of Miss America, who has 
taken a seat beside the fender, and having learnt 
that some little pieces of black stuff she has found 
on the mantelpiece are incense, she is amusing 
herself with "josses," as she calls them, sending 
the grey spirals of sweet smoke to mingle with her 
companions' cigarettes. 

"I've lit three josses," she informs the room: 
"one for the Madonna, and one for Mr. Buddha 
in the corner, and one for you," she tells their host, 
"because you're looking so like Mephistopheles." 

Their host assures them that he is very like 
Mephistopheles— very like Mephistopheles stirring 



298 THE CHORUS 

soup in a saucepan. The likeness had always been 
remarkable. 

Fizz ! A drop of soup "'oes into the spirit-lamp, 
and Miss America starts so that she rattles the 
fire-irons. 

Lady Mauve says it is time she was in bed; but 
they have no intention of going- away yet awhile. 

The soup is ready and they sit down to table, 
Madame Mauve on their host's right, Miss America 
on his left next to George Richardson, and behind 
her is the archway into the adjoining room, hung 
with a Jacobean embroidery, concealing and reveal- 
ing an impenetrable blackness. vShe glances 
towards it with only half-simulated apprehension. 
Her joke about Mephistopheles has affected her 
nerves. 

What have they all talked about, making so 
lively a clatter? Their host is carving a game pie. 
Henrv Berners is looking after the drinks. Lady 
]\Liuve discourses on chaperons and their right to 
drink Benedictine, which she concedes herself : 
"Girls have to be amused nowadays. They won't 
put up with years of certain boredom for the sake 
of a problematical husband." "And years of cer- 
tain boredom," adds somebody, who is not the 
curlv-headed young man. How they talk and 
laugh, and how the champagne sparkles in the big 
faceted goblets ! The table-spoon goes with a suck 
into the trifle. George Richardson is eating a jam 
tart "with his fingers." 

"What's that?" exclaims Miss America sud- 
denly. She cannot forget the cavern at her back. 
"I'm sure I heard something." 



HARLEQUINADE 299 

Bats, they suggest to her, in these old houses, or 
a white owl, or the grey lady, or Saint Gengulphus 
with his head under his arm. But Miss America 
persists that she did hear something : a sort of 
rustling. 

"There!" They all hear it now: a quiet step 
upon the floor. All eyes are intent on the dark 
square and the embroidery. "What fun if I've 
caught you a burglar ! " says Miss America. Then 
a white hand takes hold of the edge of the curtain, 
a white hand and a white arm, and draws it 
deliberately aside. 

George Richardson and Henry Berners and the 
curly-headed young man rise slowly to their feet 
and stand staring, for in the archway is a glorious 
young woman posed as if for tableaux, much 
amused at the sensation she is making, enjoying- 
the eyes that are upon her. She stands there 
motionless long enough for them to observe in 
detail the splendour of her hair and the whiteness 
of her skin and the starry brightness of the candle- 
flames reflected in her eyes. Her gown below her 
white bosom is deep pink; a grey fur coat hangs 
from her shoulders. 

" Piow very nice of you all to come ! " says the 
newcomer at last, stepping over the threshold. "I 
do like to have a birthday party." 

She strolled across to a couch under the window 
and very unconcernedly sat down upon it, thrust 
a hand beneath it and brought forth a pair of gilt 
shoes with preposterous heels, and, still talking-, 
proceeded to put them on. This she did by thrust- 
ing the toe of one walking-shoe into the heel of 



300 THE CHORUS 

the other and gouging her feet out of them whhout 
untying the laces. 

"It's a vile night. Not a taxi to be had. I've 
been prancing about in mud up to my knees." 
With a backward kick she sent the muddy shoes 
under the sofa and rose to her feet. "That's better. 
Now I am ready to say how d'you do. I won't 
take ofif my coat, thanks; I'm probably not fastened 
down the back. I'll have a little trifle, and you 
might pass me one of those carnations for my 
hair." 

Henry Berners chooses her a carnation, and 
George Richardson holds his watch open for her 
while she fastens the pink rosette into the yellow 
pyramid. 

"Talk," says the Lady in Mauve in an agonized 
whisper. They all rush into the gap at once, 
offering her pie and grapes and salad and raspberry 
tarts. "Champagne!" cries the lovely stranger. 
"Give me two glasses of champagne and I'll sing 
to you." Henry Berners pours out the wine. The 
forks begin to clink again, the conversation becomes 
again noisy and entangled. There was something 
infectious in the newcomer's laughter that put 
cheerfulness into them anew. The curly-headed 
young man laughed with her and adored her : her 
beauty was a lamp in the room. His eyes were 
filled with the piled glitter of her hair, the long, 
pink mouth, the eyes that bewildered his above 
the wine-glass; he forgot the Mauve Lady and 
Miss America and the place and the hour and 
everything except the young woman on the other 
side of the table. 



HARLEQUINADE 801 

Henry Berners it was who jarred him from this 
amorous trance by a smart kick on the ankle and 
reminded him of reaUty ; of reahty, alas ! with its 
common and over-repeated expression, a scowl. A 
deadly scowl it was, too, and their host at the end 
of the table was wearing it. Seeing him thus in 
the midst of the rosy glow the young man felt as 
if he had looked through a trap-door on to icy 
w-ater. He became in his turn watchful, and leant 
back in his chair gazing on the black eyes that 
were fixed in such a blighting steadiness on the 
seemingly unconscious bright ones at the other end 
of the tables. What was the bright ones' intention ? 
Less to charm, the young man fancied, than to 
make mad. Their owner had consented to sing. 

"Signorita la belle maman," came the childish 
soprano, so young a voice out of the gold and 
scarlet, while she offered Miss America an imagin- 
ary bouquet; and then "Wiede, wiede, wenne," and 
at " Heisst mein Ganz " her fingers just for the 
briefest of seconds tickled George Richardson under 
the chin. Then sitting on the arm of the chair, 
reckless of its venerable vSheraton, she struck up the 
marching song that never loses its freshness of 
brutality : " 'Twas on the road to sweet Athy : 
Hurroo ! hurroo ! " Following this she had another 
glass of champagne, and was now prepared, she 
assured them, to give an imitation of Madame 
Marcelle Irvon of the Folies Berg^res, Paris. 

At this point the Mauve Lady found it imperative 
to drag herself and the equally reluctant Miss 
America away. She would have done so before, 
but the situation had so numbed her wits that she 



302 THE CHORUS 

really had not the words on which to make an exit ; 
and from a fete galante of that kind one really had 
to make an exit. It was not a case for a simple 
getting away ; it required extrication. She managed 
it when the inspiration came in what appeared to 
the young man a masterly manner. 

"We mustn't stay another minute. We should 
have gone long ago; but once this delightful treat 

began I'd no idea — " she pressed the hand of 

her grim host — "you had such a surprise in store 
for us. It's been too perfect. Good-night." She 
beamed round upon everybody. She felt she had 
risen to the occasion. 

"Good-bye," said Miss America quite simply, 
too enthralled with the adventure to bear ill-will to 
her extinguisher. "So pleased to have met you ! " 

What a convenient language, American ! She 
would have said just the same thing to the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. 

Henry Berners opened the door for them and 
they passed out. Their host did not immediately 
follow. There was a brief duel of eyes between 
him and George Richardson, and then they were 
all saying good-bye to the mysterious beauty 
(except the curly-headed young man, who, to his 
disgust, was dumb); and "Well, old man, it isn't 
our funeral " Henry Berners could be heard sotto 
voce to the reluctant George Richardson on the 
stairs. And there at the end of everything was the 
midnight street, and the lamps, and the smell of 
rain, and the sound of the closing door of the 
Mauve Lady's motor, the last flicker of "Good- 
night," "So long, old chap," quenched in the 



HARLEQUINADE 303 

oncoming, laughter-scattering silence, the splash of 
the muddy pavement as they turned away, the 
shutting of the front door, George Richardson 
cursing the weather, Henry Berners, ever practical, 
hailing the taxicab with his umbrella, more "good- 
nights," and our young friend disconsolate beneath 
the lamp-post. 

So his mind reconstructed it. 

A clock sent the notes of the half-hour drifting 
into the sodden darkness. Out of the curtained 
windows behind him came a single "ting" from a 
dining-room mantelpiece. It hardly seemed worth 
while to wait any longer. Beauty and Beast were 
both happily asleep by this time. Hadn't he made 
a pretty complete fool of himself ? And here was 
the policeman again, confound him ! Why couldn't 
he go to bed like other people at a decent hour, 
instead of prying and prowling through the streets ? 
He was advancing inexorable as fate. The young 
man braced himself to meet another scrutiny. 
" What about half-a-crown ? " he asked himself. 
He knew how the whole tenor of a life may hang 
upon such a trifle. Suppose he were arrested for 
loitering, what sort of figure would he cut in the 
dock next morning? He could see the little 
paragraph — 

" Magistrate : ' How many glasses of champagne 
does he say he had?' 'Two, your worship.' 
Magistrate : ' Two too many ' (laughter)." They 
thought themselves mighty funny at Marylebone. 
What would his father think about it ? Would 
he laugh, too, or would it be: "Damn you, you 
young puppy ! 1 make you an allowance to live 



304 THE CHORUS 

decently " Should he give the poHceman the 

half-crown? A\^ouldn't that look loo suspiciously 
like bribery? Well, what on earth else was it? 
But surely in a free country a man might stand 
outside a friend's house without having to pay for 
the privilege ? Why should he care what a police- 
man thought? His conscience was clear. If the 
man interfered with him he was an ignorant brute ; 
if he could be bought off he was a scoundrel. The 
young man squared his shoulders. The light of 
the lantern was flitted over him. "Good-night, 
sir," said the policeman. He was, after all, a 
thoroughly worthy and respectable man ; a simple, 
kindly— and, moreover, he was twice the age, at 
least, of the young hero. "Good-night, constable. 
Beastly weather." The slow tramp went up the 
street and turned the corner. Fortified by the rites 
of the law the young man continued to watch 
No. 27. By God ! he'd stay there till the milk came. 
Almost at once he was re\\arded for his con- 
stancy. There was a sound from the house opposite 
that resembled nothing so much as a composite fall 
downstairs, the door was shaken with a heavy blow 
from the inside, opened an inch, banged to, opened 
again, held open, the toe of a patent leather shoe 
thrust between it and the door-post. "I won't, 
I won't ! " the voung man heard a feminine voice 
saying and a sound of hard breathing through 
noses. Crash ! The door swung back to the wall 
so that its bolts and chains clattered. Crash ! 
Someone in grey was bundled out on to the step. 
Bang ! from the knocker as the door swung to 
again. 



HARLEQUINADE 3o5 

"No, you don't," says the grey somebody, throw- 
ing herself against the door. "Get out," says 
the voice inside. The young woman wastes no 
breath in words; she is pushing. "Get your foot 
in," the young man silently conjures her; he is 
jigging with excitement. The door is closing; the 
young woman reverses her position and leans all 
her weight backwards against it. Useless : with 
a sharp click the latch has caught, the bolts shoot 
home in aggressive triumph. 

" Dirty swine ! " screams the young woman, 
whisking round and putting her mouth to the 
letter-box. 

The young man crossed the road and waited, hat 
in hand, for her attention. With her fair hair 
unrolled down her back she looked like a Fatima in 
train for execution. She had told Bluebeard inside 
to cut his throat with the carving-knife, and was 
suggesting mutilations, when she became aware of 
the young man standing near her. Instantly her 
manner changed : she stood upright, smiled a 
deprecating, disarming smile, and said in a mincing- 
voice, "Forgotten my latch-key. Too bad. Can't 
make anybody hear." 

"Can I be of any assistance to you?" asked the 
young man, still uncovered. 

"Thank you very much. I really don't know 
what's to be done. It's such an unusual position 
for a lady to find herself in. Why — " she began 
to smile as she looked into the young man's face — 
"you're trying to kid me. I've seen you before 
to-night. You were at the party, weren't you?" 

" I was indeed." 

X 



306 THE CHORUS 

The young woman shook back her hair and 
laughed. 

"I gave them fits," she said. Having finished 
laughing, she looked at him once more suspiciously. 
" What did you come back for ? " 

He was a trifle confused. "I thought things 
might be difficult for you. I've been waiting in 
case you needed help." 

She laughed delightedly, catching her lower lip 
with her teeth. "Bless him ! he's a dear boy. He 
thought he could help me." 

" If I could " 

"Of course you can. Here, hold these a minute 
while I do my hair." 

This was not quite the sort of assistance the 
young man had looked forward to giving, but he 
made obediently a cup of his hands and received 
an assortment of combs and pins that she pulled 
out of the mane upon her shoulders, and among 
them a red carnation. 

"I believe it was you gave me that," she said, 
beginning to weave the golden mass with uplifted 
hands. It was Henry Berners, as they both knew, 
but the young man had courage to say — 

"I wish you'd give it me back." 

She stabbed the final hairpins into her hair, took 
the carnation, kissed it, gave it to him again. 

"There," she said; "there's something to cry 
over when you're sixty — if you haven't lost it." 

The young man put it into his breast pocket and 
took timid possession of the hand that had given it. 

"I say, you know, what are you going to do ? " 

"Do? Why, I haven't begun to think about it. 



HARLEQUINADE 307 

Did I look nice in there? " Slie nodded at the door 
behind them. 

"You were glorious. But what did you do it 
for?" 

She began her laugh again. "Just devilment; 
sheer, unnecessary devilment. It doesn't do to let 
a man get too sure of one. One must make sur- 
prises. One mustn't let him get to think he's got 
one. No-ho ! that would never do." 

"You made him pretty mad." 

"I meant to. He's made me pretty mad once or 
twice, I can tell you. I was feeling larky : I had 
to have my bit of fun. And besides, if there's 
going to be a change, I've got to be seen, you 
know." 

The fine rain in the lamplight made a white 
radiance about her. 

"Don't you worry, childie; I shall be all right." 

" But what are you going to do now ? " 

She drew her brows together for a second. 

"Tell me—" the words sprang at him — "do I 
smell of drink? " 

The young man was so taken aback that he nearly 
fell down the steps. She gripped his hand and 
steadied him. 

"Of course you don't." 

"Of course I do, you mean." 

"A very little, perhaps," said the young man, 
blushing. 

*'Ah, that's better," said the young woman. 
"Would you say, now, I was drunk?" 

"Certainly you're not." He was indignant. "I 
swear you're not," 



808 THE CHORUS 

"Would you say that if you were the police- 
cloctor up at the barracks?" 

"I should, most certainly." 

She smiled at his fervour. 

"I suppose you're all right yourself. Used to 
champagne ? I mean, I can take your word for 
it?" 

The young man laughed. "I've had horrid 
doubts; but I'm sober all right. I swear I am." 

"Very well," said the girl, "we'll take that as 
settled. I shall stay here all night and create a 
scandal. That'll annoy somebody." 

"But you can't stay here in the rain ! " 

"Why not? i\Iy complexion will stand it, so 
far." 

"But you'll catch cold." 

"The boy is talking nonsense." 

"But your coat will be spoiled." 

"I'll buy a new one." 

Her smile w'as imperturbable. He had a curious 
feeling that he had shrunk to pigmy size and was 
walking into her eyes beneath the starry lashes. 

"Look here," he said, "at least you might sit 
down. Sit on this book." 

He pulled out of his pocket a volume that he 
had been reading. The Philosophy of Change, and 
put it on the step. She sat down without glancing 
at it. 

"I've chained myself to the scraper," she said, 
yawning; "call me at eight." 

He realized that she was tired enough almost to 
fall asleep. Her tiredness made her look, not old, 
but very young. The rain was hanging like a dew 



HARLEQUINADE 809 

upon the fur of her coat and the locks of her hair. 
Her delicate face was framed in a mist of little 
curls. Bending down, he told her so. 

"Go on," she said, "tell me some more. I like 
to hear you." 

"If you were on my doorstep," he said, "I 
shouldn't keep the door shut." 

"If you'd take my advice, darling, you wouldn't 
mix yourself up with persons like me." 

"I can't tell you what a happiness it is even to 
look at you. I wish you would trust me to take 
care of you." 

"Ah, but there's your own good to think about." 

(Was there a hint of slyness in that suggestion ?) 

"I am thinking of that all the time, I'm ashamed 
to say. Dearest, won't you come?" 

"You're a complete darling," said the girl; but 
she made no attempt to move. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch : the steady 
tramp of the policeman again. 

"It is the lark, and not the nightingale," mur- 
mured the girl, rising to her feet. 

The lantern was turned upon them. 

"Oh, constable," said the girl, with the mincing 
quality of voice, "it's so provoking: I've come 
out without my latch-key. Could you make some- 
body hear? " 

The policeman looked from one to the other, 
but came at once under the spell of beauty in 
distress. 

"I'll have a try. Miss," he said. "Have you 
knocked, Miss ? " ' 

"Once or twice," said the voice, very smalK 



810 THE CHORUS 

The policeman put down his lantern. 

"I'll try the area bell, Miss." 

Diapasons pealed. He did it again. 

" Do the servants sleep in the basement ? " 

"No, they sleep at the top of the house." 

" Ho ! Then I'll try the knocker." 

Thunders reverberated. 

"You'll have to keep on and on, I expect," said 
the girl sweetly. 

The policeman went at it. 

"Try the electric bell," she presently suggested. 
" We can't help it if we wake the street. I'll ring, 
while you keep on at the knocker." 

They made an astounding amount of noise 
Ijetween them. 

"Try a shout through the letter-box." 

"Hulloa!" bawled the policeman. "Hulloa in 
there ! " 

The young man felt it was time to be going. At 
any moment the door might open and reveal his 
share in the conspiracy. His help was no longer 
needed. He could trust the policeman to put the 
case to No. 27's infuriated owner. He separated 
himself from the pair on the doorstep and began 
to move away. 

"Have another go at the knocker," the girl was 
saying, with evident enjoyment. "I simply must 
get in." The young man was forgotten. 

Well, he had helped her do her hair, anyhow. 
He walked away in the shadow of the houses. The 
policeman was now hammering like an impatient 
school audience : Thump — thump — thump thump 
thump Thump — thump — thump thump thump. 



HARLEQUINADE 311 

Glancing over his shoulder, the young man saw 
the girl in an attitude of graceful nonchalance, 
hand on hip, gilt shoes crossed, head tilted, leaning 
all her weight on one thumb and that thumb on 
the stud of the electric bell. With that last glimpse 
he turned the corner. 



THE END 



Printed in Great Britain bv 

Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, 

brunswick st., stamford st., s.e., 

and bungay, suffolk. 



DATE DUE 


















































































































































CAYLOHO 






j PRINTEOIN U.S.A. 



tin SOIITHFRN RFniriNAL LIRRAf-lY FACILITY 



AA 000 595 823 6